Finally. A proper train service from Bucharest to Otopeni Airport

Will wonders never cease? Earlier today the  Minister of Transport Sorin Buse announced that by the spring of 2018 there would be a direct train service from Bucharest’s main train station, Gara de Nord, to its airport at Otopeni. 

As you may know, there has been a kind of train service to and from the airport for sometime, but it is most unsatisfactory. It is infrequent, slow, and worst of all involves a minibus ride from the airport terminal to the shed at the end of an alley which serves as a station. It is, fundamentally, useless.

Which is why nobody uses it. 

The plan announced yesterday is far more promising. It will see the existing train line upgraded and extended to within walking distance of the airport terminal itself. Buse today promised journey times of just 18 minutes. File under ‘believe it when we see it.’

There are also plans for direct trains from the airport to Ploiesti, Brasov and Ruse in Bulgaria. 

The idea of making use of existing infrastructure is not new. In fact, we suggested it ourselves as long ago as 2008 as a cheap alternative to an underground metro line. The overground option is certainly cheaper: Buse said it would cost €89 million. The metro would cost €1 billion or more. 

So does this mean the plan to build a phenomenally expensive metro line along much the same route (1 Mai –  Otopeni Airport) is now dead? 

No. But if the overground service is a success then there will be little need or political will to build it, at least along the same route (as is the current plan).

As we have written before if a metro line is to be built to Otopeni then extending the current M2 line and linking the airport with the city centre is the way to do it. Building an entirely new line to 1 Mai (requiring two changes of train to reach the city centre) would be little more than folly. 

As for the overground line, if it is to be a success then it needs to be as quick as promised, reliable and – perhaps most importantly – frequent. A train every 30 minutes, from 04:30 until 01:30 (a large number of planes land at Otopeni between midnight and 01:00).

Let’s see what kind of service we get. 

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16 thoughts on “Finally. A proper train service from Bucharest to Otopeni Airport

  1. Good news, indeed. Hopefully the bureaucrats in the Ministry of Transportation are slowly coming to their senses, although the very reasonable M2-Otopeni connection (in particular if built overground) was already suggested last year by some foreign experts contracted to prepare the Bucharest SUMP (Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan) and rejected without due consideration by the same bureaucrats.
    However, one potential issue with the Otopeni-Gara de Nord train is the lack of good connections to destinations such as Pipera, Universitate, Lia Manoliu or some of our densely-populated neighborhoods. The municipality should upgrade the tram network to light rail standards and perhaps hybrid tram/train services should be established between Otopeni and certain destinations in Bucharest, with rail vehicles able to use both the CFR and the RATB networks.

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  2. Romania is obliged to have a metro line to Otopeni done because it was one of the prerequisites for Bucharest to become one of the cities to host the 2020 European Championship.

    This and renovating some of the stadiums in the city. Which are not privately owned, but they are owned by state institutions so @Craig Turp don’t write another article saying how “tax payers money are spent on private projects” because it would be void. This time tax payers money will be spend on public projects from which the tax payers hopefully will benefit.

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      1. So no single country wants to foot the bill for hosting it alone. Sounds like Europe is saving it’s cash for WW3? Which explains why the last winter Olympics and next world cup is going to Russia in order to bleed the Russian state dry.

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    1. It would silly for you to dig a 10-mile tunnel for one event. Of course there is no such requirement. If you need public transportation during that UEFA thing, you can make it very cheaply by setting up protected bus lanes from Otopeni to Lia Manoliu and downtown and borrow some extra buses. Rail transport should be designed considering the permanent needs of a city instead.

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      1. Some kind of rail service was a condition of Bucharest getting the four games it will host. There is a contractual obligation. No shortage of cities waiting to step in if Bucharest fails to come up with the goods.

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      2. Well, rail can also be light rail, e.g. by extending and upgrading Tram 5 or Tram 36. Anyway, do you have a source for the contractual obligation thing? I’d like to see the actual wording in the text.
        What about Bilbao? They don’t seem to have rail service between the airport and the city.

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      3. Bilbao is currently building a rail service between the airport and the city. However, I have no idea when they will finish it.

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      4. I’m a fan of Athletic Bilbao since 1998 when they made it to Champions League.

        I supported the ETA too, of course, but now they went dormant.

        I miss the old days of nationalist bombs. Now we only have religious bombs blowing things up…

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  3. So expect it to be ready in 2028, with a frequency of 1 every 3 hours and stopping at 7pm. They could call it the Henri Coanda Express.

    As for direct connections from Ploiesti, Brasov and Ruse…

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    1. Now I think of it there isn’t even a decent service to Ruse from Gara de Nord, let alone the airport.

      Still, at least they have realised that this is the best way to do it. And given the relatively low cost I remain hopeful for the time being that there is a chance it might actually happen.

      A lot depends on what kind of government we get post-election of course.

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