Railroad Overhaul Temporarily Suspended Due to ‘Illicit Fights’

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Croatian Railways never fail to surprise.

Here in Croatia, one of the companies we love to hate, yet keep using their services on the regular is HŽ – the Croatian Railways. If you need a reason to kick off a cathartic complaining rant, just look to HŽ: trains that never arrive on time, worn-down tracks, outdated technology, ridiculous hours required to reach your destination, constant changes to schedules due to construction works on the railroad… oh, HŽ, you never fail to deliver. Except when you need to deliver your passengers quickly and on time.

A background story for some context:

When I first moved to Zagreb for college some ten years ago, I often travelled home to Rijeka on weekends, usually taking the bus. However, inspired by my mother’s nostalgic musings on her own college years in Zagreb and all the memorable train trips she used to take, on one occasion I decided to try out the 80s approach.

We tend to romanticise trains to a certain extent, don’t we? Railways passing through stunning scenery, far from monotonous highways; carriages gently bobbing along the way, the calming constant hum and the occasional whistle – lovely. So many cult novels and films took place in trains – the Trans Siberian railway, the Orient Express. Bored by my usual method of transport, I replaced a 2-hour bus line with a 3.5-hour train ride from Rijeka to Zagreb. We departed at 5, and were supposed to arrive in Zagreb around 8.30. Or so I thought.

Somewhere along the way, it turned out a certain point of the railroad was undergoing renovation works, so we were forced to leave the train and board a bus generously provided by HŽ. I can’t recall the exact location, as it was already pitch black outside – and pouring rain. We dragged our luggage to the bus, soaking wet, and carried on towards the metropolis – until we had to stop due to a deflated tire. We didn’t even take the highway, the driver opting for local roads instead, and we finally arrived at the Main Railway Station in Zagreb close to midnight. At least they stuck to the train theme.

List of places and people that could have provided a warning of the extraordinary circumstances before departure:

1) Railway station in Rijeka. A notice would have been nice. None.
2) Salesperson at the ticket booth. Nope.
3) HŽ website. No notice before the trip.
4) Train conductor en route to Zagreb.

And yet, when we complained, we were told the renovations works have been going on for some time and that they thought we knew. I’ve never taken a single HŽ train again, except for a couple of international lines later on. Damn you, Agatha Christie.

If you take a quick look at the HŽ official website, you’ll find a map of Croatia with all locations where the railroad is currently getting touched up:


Before boarding a train anywhere within Croatian borders, make sure to check whether your particular route may be interrupted. It’s a frequent occurrence, one that constantly gets on our nerves. However, on November 14, 2017, things took quite a wild turn with an entirely different notice popping up: on that very day, the railway section Rijeka – Fužine was back in operation, thanks to a suspension of the ongoing overhaul of the tracks. Social media quickly caught on fire, not owing to the surprising fact a minuscule portion of the railroad network was to operate properly for a single day, but because of the reason behind it: the overhaul was suspended due to illicit fights.


The notice went on to mention another reason; motorways got closed for traffic due to strong wind so the only reasonable option was to provide people with another way to travel. Nobody cared about that part, though – ILLICIT FIGHTS! We all got excited. Nowhere did the notice mention the specifics – who was it that fought, railroad workers? Bears and boars? Which particular circumstance made the fights illegal? Was there any underground gambling going on?

Contacted by Jutarnji, the representatives of HŽ were quick to apologise and state the bemusing notice was a result of certain technical malfunctions on the site. Sure, HŽ, we’re totally buying that – after all, we all know what the first rule of Fight Club is. Props for sticking to the code of honour.


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