Railway Operators in Albania
Network length, gauge and electrification (2001):
Since 1991 private car ownership has been permitted and there are many minibus services offering quicker transits (though these only run when full) so passenger traffic has suffered steep decline. Most of the communist-era mining activities, which were the 'raison d'etre' for the railways, have now ceased, so freight traffic is also much reduced in consequence: about five daily service are run to demand. Operations are now entirely radio-controlled from Durres; the colour-light signalling system covering the central section now being defunct apart from at Elbasan West. Train drivers are issued with the traditional 'Vie Libre' paper ticket.
One encouraging development is the nightly Podgorica - Tirana freight for imported general merchandise, and this traffic is expected to develop significantly. The future of HSH must depend upon improved international links in conjunction with developments at the Port of Durres, and there has for some time been a scheme to connect the Pogradec line at Lin through to Kicevo in Macedonia, thus creating a through Trans-Balkan rail route to Burgas/Varna in Bulgaria, though the scheme awaits funding!.
No passenger services now run to Ballsh, and the Milot - Rreshen branch has been closed since 1996 - the track beyond Rubik having been lifted and transferred to repair the Shkoder - Montenegro line. Expenditure upon the aborted extension to Klos must have been colossal and it is worth following the route to beyond Burrel just to see the abandoned structures - it would have been a super ride had it been completed!
The steam loco stock referred to on the Quail map of the system is incredibly all still there as listed, but probably not for much longer, as a scrap merchant has at last moved in!
An LRT scheme has been produced to connect Tirana with Rhinas Airport, and this would also absorb the Tirana - Durres line, but it is not clear what effect this would have on the rest of the HSH system. This scheme is currently under governmental consideration.
In 2005 passenger numbers fell by 19%, mainly due to a collapsed bridge close to Tirana. Passenger numbers amounted 1.42 million, HSH hopes to reach 1.8 million passengers in 2006 now that the bridge is repaired. In 2006 international freight traffic to Montenegro restarted with trains running approx. once a week to the border station of Bajze.