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Page last updated at 12:22 GMT, Sunday, 13 December 2009

Belgrade-Sarajevo railway reopens after 17 years

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Rail officials hope the line will attract more passengers during the holidays

A rail link has re-opened between the capitals of Serbia and Bosnia, almost 17 years after it was cut during the conflict in the former Yugoslavia.

The line between Belgrade and Sarajevo was damaged in the fighting between Serbs, Croats and Bosnian Muslims.

The journey time is now two hours longer than it was before the war, as the track is in such poor condition.

Sunday's first train had only 17 passengers in its three carriages, nine of whom planned to travel to Sarajevo.

Railway officials say they hope the line, once popular with skiers and businesspeople, will attract more people during the winter holidays.

Nostalgia

The BBC's Mark Lowen in Belgrade says the line was very much a part of the "golden era" of Yugoslavia during the 1970s and 80s, symbolising what then President Tito called "brotherhood and unity" among the country's six republics.

This is a special event for us in Serbia to re-establish some connections between two countries and two people
Branko Rogosic, passenger

People could start the day in an Ottoman-style cafe in the Bosnian capital before taking an easy six-hour ride in comfortable carriages to party in Belgrade.

But as the country spiralled into ethnic hatred and brutal war, the train route was stopped in its tracks, our correspondent says. Sections of the route were destroyed in intense fighting.

The wars left a fragile relationship between Serbia and Bosnia-Hercegovina, making travel between the two difficult, he adds.

But, our correspondent says, perhaps the re-opening will come to represent another step on the gradual path to reconciliation between these Balkan neighbours as the scars of war continue to heal.

Map

Before boarding the train on Saturday morning, Branko Rogosic recalled the last time he took the direct service in 1987.

"This is a special event for us in Serbia to re-establish some connections between two countries and two people. We intend to go to Sarajevo because of this train," he told the BBC.

Ivan Bagovic, who used to take the train frequently, said that while there were more alternative means of transport today, "the train is the most romantic one".

"I think I will take it in a nostalgic way. That sound of the train is beautiful. It gives us something we have not had in a long time."



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SEE ALSO
Bosnia struggles to build a nation
21 Nov 08 |  Europe
How Yugoslavia vanished from maps
19 Feb 08 |  Europe
Yugoslavia: Death of a country
16 Feb 03 |  From Our Own Correspondent
Yugoslavia consigned to history
04 Feb 03 |  Europe
Country profile: Serbia
21 May 12 |  Country profiles
Country profile: Bosnia-Hercegovina
12 Jan 12 |  Country profiles


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