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.