Albania - General Information
National railway system
Train services in Albania are subject to alteration and cancellation at short notice. As at October 2017 passenger trains were reported to be running from Durrës to Kashar, Elbasan and Shkoder.
The compilers particularly welcome reports of railway operations from travellers to Albania.
National Railway Operator
Hekurudha Shqipëtare (HSH). Their website at www.hsh.com.al no longer exists.
Unknown, but probably HSH.
numeric 41; alpha AL.
The Ministry of Transport railways webpage enables a single sheet to be downloaded showing the timetable, but without any details of intermediate stops. Click on Oraret e trenave për Pasagjerët and then SHKARKO PDF. In 2017 this still shows the timetable effective from May 2015, which does not reflect the current situation.
A good unofficial timetable in German Kursbuch der Albanischen Eisenbahn was available for 2015, but has not been updated since - not least because there are hardly any trains to show in it.
No timetable is published by HSH, and on Tuesday 3rd October 2017 the services running were not as suggested by "The Man at Seat61" or "Fahrplancenter" websites and the only timetable posted at any station was outside the main doors at Durrës. They were:
0710 & 1430 Durrës – Kashar, 0700 & 0830 Kashar – Durrës
1300 Durrës – Shkoder [scheduled to take 3h 45m], 0545 Shkoder – Durrës
1445 Durrës – Elbasan, 0610 Elbasan – Durrës [due to reach Durres at approximately 09.00].
Whether these run daily is not known.
There is no official HSH railway map. Quail Map Company publishes the Albanian Railway Guide, which includes track diagrams, motive power details and other information. General maps can be misleading, because they may be based on deliberately inaccurate information provided by the former communist government.
There is no railrover ticket covering Albania, but fares are extremely cheap and based on a zonal system. Tickets are not sold in advance, and are valid only on the first train following issue.
Rule of the road
There are no double track lines, except in the immediate vicinity of principal stations, and the track used depends on operating convenience.
Recent and future changes
All train services in Albania were suspended in November 2016, because unpaid fuel bills caused the railway company's bank accounts to be frozen. By February 2017 passenger services had resumed between Durrës and Kashar, about 8 km from Tiranë. A bus link supposedly operates between Kashar and Tiranë city centre, but travellers have reported no service being provided. Trains on all other lines had been cancelled from 9 July 2016, but were reinstated to Librazhd and Shkodër later that month. Some other trains had resumed by July 2017, following the November 2016 closure, between Durres, Shkoder and Elbasan. It is not known which lines remain open for freight, but the cross-border line from Montenegro was observed to be in use in June 2017.
The situation remains very fluid and travellers should be aware that further changes may be made at short notice. The entire network is in danger of collapse. However, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) announced in June 2016 a loan of €86m to HSH to rehabilitate the 34.7 km between Tirana Terminal (PTT) and Durres and also for construction of a line between the airport and PTT Tirana. Albania hopes to integrate its regions by improving connections between its major cities. It is unclear if this includes the railways and whether any further EBRD funding would be forthcoming.
The branch to Rreshen closed to all traffic in November 1996 and the track was used to repair damage to the Shkodër line. The line between Fier and Ballsh closed to passenger traffic in 2001. The Durrës avoiding line linking the Tiranë and Elbasan lines, formerly used by passenger trains in summer, and which appeared to have been out of use since 2006, was observed as being lifted in October 2012. The once daily train from Rrogozhinë to Pogradec was 'temporarily' withdrawn beyond Librazhd (a short distance east of Elbasan) in summer 2012, apparently after damage from road construction work. Reopening was understood to be scheduled for early in 2013 but the line remained closed as at February 2017. Tiranë to Vorë was closed in September 2013 for redevelopment of Tiranë station. A rail service between Vorë and Kashar, in the suburbs of Tiranë was reinstated on 26 May 2015, but later withdrawn between Vorë and Durrës.
It is understood that the new Tiranê station will be in the Laprake area, some distance short of the site of the old one.
By comparison with other European systems, HSH is a very primitive railway, using elderly rolling stock acquired second hand and now in very poor condition. It is common to find carriages in service with broken glass in the windows.
There are no international passenger trains to Albania, the one railway into Montenegro being used only for freight traffic. Routes from Western Europe are by air, road or ferry from Brindisi (Italy). Coaches operate between Tiranë and various German and Eastern European cities.
Further information about Albanian Railways can be found at www.angelfire.com/ak/hekurudha/index.html