Belgrade-Sarajevo train resumes after 18 years

Rail officials concede that the resurrection of the line is a political rather than a commercial necessity.

Belgrade-Sarajevo train resumes after 18 years

A grimy three-car train pulled out of Belgrade's railway station Sunday on the first direct trip to Sarajevo in nearly 18 years, restoring a link broken at the start of ethnic warfare in the former Yugoslavia

Its windows smeared and seats shabby and old, the train looked nothing like its old self, when it was called the Olympic Express and hailed as the pride of the Communist-run nation.

The 1980s Belgrade-Sarajevo line was the most modern transportation line in the country. The train was redecorated for the 1984 Winter Olympics in Sarajevo with a red carpet and stewardesses, and its carriages were packed with skiers, businesspeople or youth.

During Bosnia's 1992-95 war, Serbia's nationalist leadership armed and supported a Bosnian Serb deadly three-year siege of Sarajevo which killed thousands of its residents.

The Bosnian Serb carriage is to be disconnected at the Serb territory in Bosnia, before reaching Sarajevo.

The journey will take more than eight hours instead of six due to the many new borders between Serbia, Croatia and Bosnia, and to a dilapidated track worn out by war, neglect and poverty.

"I used to take that train to Belgrade five or six times a year, first with my parents, then with my friends, I have some great memories," said Sarajevo native Boba Lizdek, 43.

Rail officials concede that the resurrection of the line is a political rather than a commercial necessity.

There will be only one train a day, compared with three before the war.

"I don't think traffic will be fully restored to pre-war levels. At best it might reach 50 percent," said Namik Hajric, chief conductor in the Bosnian Federation rail company.

"At the beginning we will have two passenger carriages and a restaurant car. If there is a need we will add more later."



Agencies

Last Mod: 13 Aralık 2009, 18:20
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