Starting from April 24, Slovenian Railways (SŽ) established an additional direct connection (one pair of trains) for passengers on the line Villa Opicina/Trieste – Sežana – Divača – Pivka – Ilirska Bistrica – Šapjane – Opatija-Matulji – Rijeka. With this, for the first time in history, the new modern SŽ trains, manufactured by Stadler, entered Croatia and thus significantly improved the offer for passengers.

The new connection is part of the European project Sustance Interreg Central Europe

SŽ-Potniški promet is leading the establishment of a new cross-border railway connection, which is being carried out in cooperation with HŽ Putnički prijevoz (HŽPP) and the Italian project partner Central European Initiative (CEI) as part of the European project SUSTANCE Interreg Central Europe. The aim of the project is to improve the connectivity of the two regions and check the possibility of using public transport for tourist purposes on this route. The new direct train connection between Villa Opicina and Rijeka and back will be available every day from April 24 to September 30, 2024. The train departs from Villa Opicina in the morning at 7:50 a.m. and returns from Rijeka in the evening at 6:25 p.m.

On April 24, before the first run of the train, Slovenian Railways organized a symbolic cutting of the ribbon in Villa Opicina. The guests and passengers were addressed by CEI Secretary General Roberto Antonione, head of the Department for Railways and Cableways from the Ministry of Infrastructure, mag. Vlasta Kampoš Jerenec, Regional Minister for Infrastructure and Spatial Affairs of Friuli-Venezia Giulia Cristina Amirante, Director of SŽ-Potniški Promet mag. Darja Kocjan and HŽPP sales manager Andrea Glavaš.

Every day 16 connections between Slovenia and Croatia and expansion of offers with new SŽ trains

As the director of SŽ-Potniški promet, mag. Darja Kocjan said at the event, “Croatia and Slovenia are now connected every day by eight pairs of trains, that is sixteen connections. Three pairs of trains run between Ljubljana and Zagreb every day. Here I also see possibilities for expanding the offers of Slovenian Railways with new modern Stadler trains and I hope for cooperation with HŽPP. There are two pairs of trains between Ljubljana and Rijeka every day. One pair of trains runs between Ljubljana and Pula every day and one additional pair during the season. From today, one pair of trains runs between Vila Opicina and Rijeka during the season, with a connection also from or in the direction of Ljubljana.”

Sustainable transport and revitalization of tourism along the route

The Villa Opicina – Rijeka route is also very rich in terms of tourism, and more train connections mean even more opportunities for the development of sustainable tourism. We also experienced the pulse of tourism along the line on our first train ride. On the way by train, we were first surprised by the representatives of Divača tourism with an interesting play about Brkonje Čeljustnik and the girl Darka from the story of Brkonje Čeljustnik, the literary compatriot of these places, Dr. Bogomir Magajna. That this area is also rich in cuisine was demonstrated on the train by the local women society of the Pepca Čehovin Tatjana Cultural Association, who also presented the Slovenian national costume, while the accordion of local accordion player Roko Gombač played. A special surprise on the train was the well-established opera baritone Jure Počkaj who also comes from this area. Jure expressed his great joy at the new connection, as he recently became a member of the Rijeka Opera and will thus be a regular user of the new train connection.

When the train arrived at Ilirska Bistrica, another surprise followed, this time for Ilirska Bistrica tourism. We were joined by the young accordion players of the Niko Poles orchestra, beekeepers, and we were able to taste the local cuisine again. They surprised the passengers with a honey cake. We could also write a postcard on the train and send it to the desired address.

Passengers from all three countries (Italy, Slovenia and Croatia), and of course beyond, with the new connection we have thus got the opportunity to explore tourism along the route, which offers a huge number of natural and other attractions, such as Divača, Pivka, Sežana, Ilirska Bistrica, Opatija and Rijeka as well as municipalities that are connected to Trieste by bus.

This improves the offer of safe, modern and environmentally friendly train transport for passengers. When transporting passengers, SŽ consumes on average almost five times less energy per passenger than is consumed on average in road car transport.

Special reception of the first train in Rijeka

In Rijeka, the train was enthusiastically received and the event was honored with many speakers. Those gathered were greeted with speeches and emphasized the importance of sustainable train connections by Interreg CE program representative Winfried Ritt, State Secretary at the Croatian Ministry of Maritime Affairs, Transport and Infrastructure Alen Gospočić, Head of the Railways and Cableways Department of the Ministry of Infrastructure, mag. Vlasta Kampoš Jerenec, mayor of Rijeka Marko Filipović, mayor of Trieste Roberto Di Piazza, mayor of Ilirska Bistrica dr. Gregor Kovačič, representative of the autonomous region of Friuli-Venezia Giulia (I) Enzo Volponi, president of the board of HŽPP Željko Ukić director of SŽ-Passenger Transport mag. Darja Kocjan and CEI Secretary General Roberto Antonione.

Mag. Vlasta Kampoš Jerenec emphasized the importance of new connections and conveyed the message of the Ministry of Infrastructure of the Republic of Slovenia, which constantly supports activities that lead to an increase in international connections between Slovenia and neighboring countries. The train, which will connect the municipalities with Divača and Rijeka, offers passengers a new cross-border train connection, and also connects coastal cities with the interior. This offers new economic opportunities and the possibility for tourists to choose new, environmentally friendly forms of travel in summer. The train has often meant a possibility for new development of economic services. The Ministry of Infrastructure expects that a complementary offer will be developed during this period, which will attract enough passengers, and at the same time, the need for more permanent connections between these cities could also become apparent.”

Expansion of international connections with new SŽ trains

Director of SŽ-Potniški promet mag. Darja Kocjan emphasized that “establishing and maintaining connections in international passenger transport is very important. In addition to the existing 52 new modern trains, we expect the first of the additionally ordered 20 trains to be in the SŽ passenger service next year. For international passenger transport, 20 new modern coaches and 4 electric locomotives will be added in 2026, which will further improve the offer and passenger experience in international transport.”

The new SŽ trains manufactured by Stadler are very spacious. All doors are equipped with retractable stairs, which makes it easier to get in and out even for people with reduced mobility. There is more space for transporting bicycles, spacious toilet facilities, also adapted for the disabled and young parents – with a changing table, automatic air conditioning and large panoramic windows. The trains have a modern information system, sockets for charging electronic devices, equipped with a Wi-Fi signal and thus access to Internet content.

More information and the timetable of the new connection are available at this link.