History of Serbian Railways
XIX century – Construction of railways
The construction of first railway lines in our country started back in the first half of the 19th century, when Austro-Hungarian Monarchy and Ottoman Empire ruled the great part of our territory. Struggle for liberation of the Serbian people, after centuries of oppression, was crowned during the 19th century with creation of two states, Serbia and Montenegro. After the Congress of Berlin, these two independent states started their life within new borders. The late 19th and early 20th centuries saw the expansion of the development of railway traffic in this area, on the territory of states of that time: Serbia, Montenegro, Austria-Hungary and Turkey.
The year 1854 was important for Yugoslav Railways history. Namely, on the 20th of August, 1854, the Lisava–Oravica–Bazijas line was opened to horse-drawn traffic and in November, 1856, to traffic with steam traction. After World War I, there remained 27 km long stretch of this line on our territory, from the national border near Jam, via Jasenovo and Bela Crkva, to the national border between Vracev Gaj and Bazijas. Gradually some parts of the line were being dismantled, thus only the stretch of line between Jasenovo and Bela Crkva is in operation today. All subsequently constructed main lines in Vojvodina were laid towards Pesta.
The railway line Skopje-Kosovska Mitrovica was opened to traffic on our territory within Ottoman Empire in 1874.
In 1878, at the Congress of Berlin, Serbia was declared an independent state and four new districts were annexed to it – Nis, Pirot, Vranje and Toplica districts. At the Congress, Austria-Hungary helped Serbia to gain new territories, conditioning Serbia, however, to sign a new convention. The convention obliged Serbia to construct the railway line from Belgrade to Vranje and Turkish and Bulgarian borders in three years. In addition, the obligation to sign commercial contracts was imposed on Serbia, as well as a claim to carry out regulation works in Djerdap. Serbian Government approved this treaty by adopting the Law on Proclamation of the Convention.
Exhausted by the war with the Turks, Serbia went into economic recession. The state could not comply with the obligations stipulated in the signed convention. Vienna kept urging, warning and threatening. In April, 1880, Serbia had to sign a new convention, the scope of which was solely the construction of railways. Deadline for the construction of railway line was once again three years, i.e. 15 June 1883. By the end of 1880, the Government issued a public invitation to tender and one of the bidders was a French association from Paris – “General Union”. Duke Milan Obrenovic laid the foundation for Serbian State Railways with a silver pickaxe on the 3rd of July, 1881. This event took place “by the bridge over the Mokri Lug river, beside Topcider road” (this is a place near today’s “Gazela” bridge in Belgrade). After only a year, “General Union” went bankrupt, thus the newly founded Association for Construction and Operation of Serbian State Railways continued with the construction thereupon. This is why the first formal train on Belgrade-Nis railway line was a whole fifteen months late and roared through the Morava valley on 23rd of August, 1884 (4th of September according to the Gregorian calendar). Regular traffic was opened on the 3rd of September, 1884 (15th of September according to the Gregorian calendar; this day is celebrated every year as Railway Workers’ Day by Yugoslav Railways).
XX century – Years of association, modernization and disassociation
After World War I, all the above-mentioned territories were united into The Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenians and the railway network became a single one, remaining such after World War II, as well. The railway network had been made up of five different gauge systems: 0.600 m, 0.750 m, 0.760 m, 1 m and 1.435 m.
JZ Modernization Program was adopted in 1964 and anticipated, among other things, mass closure of narrow and unprofitable lines.
In 1970, or, more precisely, on 31 May 1970, the first electrified line on JZ network Belgrade – Sid – national border (Zagreb) was opened to traffic.
In the early nineties of the 20th century and with the begin of the war activities on the territory of the former republic of Yugoslavia, railway administrations started disassociation and allocation from Yugoslav Railways Community. “ZG Ljubljana” and “HZP Zagreb” allocated from Yugoslav Railways Community on October 8th, 1991, “ZTP Sarajevo” on May 31st, 1992, and Railways of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia became independent on 1 July 1993.
During the NATO aggression against Yugoslavia, a significant part of the railway lines and facilities in the network of Serbian Railways was destroyed or incapacitated. Development and modernization, which had been started in early 90s, suddenly was decelerated and stopped in this period of time. Consequences of these events were presented as war damage.
During 2014 “Zeljeznice Crne Gore” also allocated from Yugoslav Railways Community.
The Community was officially ceased to exist when the new Law on Railways of the Republic of Serbia was adopted in 2005. Due to obligations and debts to other railway organizations and institutions it continued to operate until 2007, when it was definitely ceased to exist.
JSC “Serbian Railways” (former “ZTP Beograd” and “PC Zeleznice Srbije”) operated as one company until 10 August 2015, when the status change of “Serbian Railways” was made according to the decision of the Government of Serbia (2 July 2015) and the new Joint Stock Companies were allocated and founded – “Infrastruktura Zeleznice Srbije”, “Srbija Voz” and “Srbija Kargo”.