Green Future for Narrow Gauge Railways – Vision and Reality in Hungary

Csaba Orosz, Dora Bachmann

Last modified: 2017-02-28


The history of narrow gauge railways starts at 1870 in Hungary. The first lines were constructed for industrial purposes: timber and stone delivery in forests, local logistic services in mines and in agriculture. Later narrow gauge railways began to have a role in regional and suburban transport too. Six thousand km long lines of such railways operated financially efficiently by 1914. Similar trends were Austria, Germany or Scotland. The nature of traffic began to change after 1920; public passenger transport gained more importance. After 1945 reconstruction supported the recovery of the agricultural sector. After 1968 many railway lines have been closed by political decision. For 2015 Hungary had 29 separate lines and companies with a total length of 503 km. (24 lines – 224 km are in operation.) The main present function of these “light railways” is green tourism. Only two forestry rail lines deal with freight transport. We have some 3800 passengers/day, 1,3 million passengers annually. [5000 to 380000 per company.] Currently operation is co-financed by “cross-financing subsidy” of the owner and/ or the state. The Hungarian Co-ordination Centre for Transport [“KKK”] ordered a study concerning that topic in 2015. Our team has studied the present situation in the field of regulation, funding and investment. After consultations with local rail companies development proposals were collected. Finally we made some ranking concerning realistic proposals. The main considerations were: a) improvement of narrow gauge railways connected to tourism and to regional development objectives; b) green education for future generations. Introducing the Industrial Heritage to families, to “rail fanatic people”; c) promoting public service, enhancing competitiveness; d) better system performance facilitating “intermodal connections”.


narrow gauge railways; policy; tourism; infrastructure development

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