Rijeka city councillors Ivana Prica and Kristian Čarapić of SDP criticised the poor railway connectivity between Rijeka and Zagreb at a recent press conference, reported Novi list (Marinko Glavan). The councillors demanded that the Croatian Railways (HŽ) reinstate the high-speed train line between Rijeka and Zagreb that was scrapped last year.
‘The last remaining express service operating on the route Rijeka-Zagreb-Osijek was cancelled on December 24th of last year, while the express line Zagreb-Rijeka-Zagreb has been scrapped even earlier. It thus became impossible to travel by rail from Rijeka to Zagreb and back on the same day. It’s shameful that the capital city and the biggest port in Croatia aren’t better connected in terms of railway passenger transport’, they said.
A quick search of the HŽ booking page reflects the painful reality of travelling by rail in Croatia. Not only is there no express service between Rijeka and Zagreb, but there’s only one direct line connecting the two cities at present. That particular trip takes 4.5 hours, a tedious ride compared to 2 – 2.5 hours it takes to get to the capital by bus or little over 1.5 hours if you’re travelling by car.
Other four available services involve a change of train halfway through and take anywhere from 5.5 hours for an early morning service to almost 11 hours in case of a night line:
Trip duration listed on the timetable is the best case scenario. The site warns that ‘due to work on certain sections of the railway, deviations from the published timetable are possible’. This is a frequent occurrence that’s more than likely to extend the duration of your trip by an hour or two and involves a transfer from a train to a bus.
The timetable could use some work as well. The only direct line departs from Rijeka at 1:58 PM and arrives in Zagreb at 6:29 PM. It’s unclear who would find this convenient, as you’d technically waste half a day before departure and would effectively be forced to stay in Zagreb overnight in case you need to get anything done.
There are two morning lines, departing at 5:30 and 7:35 AM, but they only arrive in the capital at 11 AM and 12:42 PM respectively. If you opted for one of these, you’d have no way of getting back to Rijeka on the same day, unless you were willing to either hop on a return train an hour after your arrival, or endure a 13-hour overnight train ride. Here’s the schedule:
The only direct line from Zagreb to Rijeka departs at 8 in the morning and also has a 4.5 hour trip duration. The timetable doesn’t match a normal workday schedule, and frequent travellers on this route – such as college students – essentially don’t have a choice but to travel by bus.
It’s a shame, as travelling by rail is not only more comfortable than taking a bus, but is also the most sustainable mode of passenger and freight transport.
Bus lines between Zagreb and Rijeka (and vice versa) are much more frequent, with several companies operating on the route and departing every hour or so throughout the day.
There’s not much to complain about on that front, except if you were looking to make a day trip to Zagreb during the holiday season. The last Zagreb-Rijeka bus departs at 7 PM on most days (weekends included), so if you were hoping to revel in the festive spirit of Advent in Zagreb, you’d be limited to daytime activities.
Arguably, Christmas markets are best enjoyed in the evening, and you’d have an hour or so to get a cup of mulled wine and appreciate the sparkling lights before hurrying back to the bus station. This goes for those travelling back to Istria as well, as the mentioned 7 PM service is also the last one that continues on to Pazin and Pula after a stop in Rijeka.
Perhaps a good way for the capital to generate more overnight stays in December, but considering how popular Advent in Zagreb has been in recent years, it could use a few more bus lines in evening hours to accommodate those who don’t necessarily want to spend the weekend.