North Macedonia - General Information
North Macedonia (Severna Makedonija/Северна Македонија). Officially the Republic of North Macedonia (Republika Severna Makedonija/Република Северна Македонија).
The country declared independence from the former Yugoslavia in September 1991 and (until February 2019) was officially the Republic of Macedonia. However, as a result of objections from Greece to use of the name 'Macedonia', the country joined the United Nations as the 'Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia' (FYROM). It was announced in June 2018 that, with the agreement of Greece, the country was to be renamed the Republic of North Macedonia (Severna Makedonija). The change was overwhelmingly approved in a non-binding referendum. The parliament voted for the name change in mid-October 2018 and it was implemented in February 2019.
National railway system
Makedonski Železnici (MŽ) / Македонски Железници (МЖ) was created as the state railway company in 1991 following the break-up of Yugoslavia. In 2007 this was transformed into separate companies for infrastructure (Makedonski Železnici Infrastruktura or MŽI) and operations (Makedonski Železnici Transport or MŽT). In 2019 these became Železnici na Republika Severna Makedonija Infrastruktura (ŽRSMI) and Železnici na Republika Severna Makedonija Transport (ŽRSMT) to reflect the changed name of the country, although commonly still referred to as MŽI and MŽT and collectively as MŽ.
National Railway Operator
(ŽRSMT) Železnici na Republika Severna Makedonija Transport Railways of the Republic of North Macedonia Transport / Железници на Република Северна Македонија Транспорт
Macedonian, using Cyrillic script.
Macedonian Denar (MKD); 1MKD = 100 Deni
numeric 65; alpha MK
Schedules for all trains departing from and arriving at Skopje can be found on the ŽRSMT website here.
The timetable in the form of train arrival and departure sheets for Skopje is available for download on the ŽRSMI website here.
A useful site is BalkanViator
- European Railway Atlas (All-Europe Edition) by M.G. Ball.
- European Railway Atlas (Regional Series: Book 3) by M.G. Ball.
- Annex No. 1 of the Network Statement contains some useful maps
The Železnici na Republika Severna Makedonija Infrastruktura website can be found here
The latest Network Statement is available in English on the ŽRSMI website here.
Rule of the road
Right, but the vast majority of the network is single track.
Table No. 1 in Annex No. 2 of the Network Statement gives distances for each station
Recent and future changes
The timetable effective from 10 December 2023 does not include any mention of the previously suspended services to Kičevo, Kočani, Prishtinë and Tabanovci. This is despite public communications stating that MŽ were working to reinstate them through the recruitment of new staff and repairs to rolling stock. The services on the Bitola line that were suspended in October 2023 were formally reinstated, however reports in December 2023 indicated that trains on this line were frequently being cancelled due to lack of serviceable rolling stock.
All traffic was suspended south of Gradsko from 14 November 2023 due to problems with the foundations of the Crna Reka bridge near Stobi. Work to reopen the line is expected to take at least 60 days.
Two of the three advertised pairs of trains between Skopje and Bitola were suspended with effect from 25th October 2023, including the pair that were extended to/from Žabeni.
One daily return service started running between Bitola and Žabeni on 1st February 2023 departing Bitola at 10:30 and returning from Žabeni at 11:00; running through from and returning to Skopje. ŽRSM had hoped to start running trains through to Kremenica and Lerin/Florina (Greece) at the end of 2022 but this has been frustrated by lack of agreement with the Greek authorities.
Although no formal announcement was made, services to/from Tabanovci are reported to have been suspended from 04 January 2023 due to a shortage of drivers.
The Skopje arrival and departure sheets were reissued in January 2023 and now note the Kičevo, Kočani and Prishtine services as not running.
Work restarted on the Kumanovo to Beljakovce section (phase 1) of the Corridor VIII project in October 2022, with Strabag as the new contractor. Work also started at the same time on phase 2, Beljakovce to Kriva Palanka, with Gülermak as the main contractor. Work on these two phases is expected to be completed in late 2025. Contracts for the final and most difficult phase, from Kriva Palanka to Deve Bair and the border with Bulgaria, are expected to be awarded in late 2023, with completion expected at the end of 2027.
It has been reported that due to a shortage of serviceable stock, services between Skopje and Kičevo and between Veles and Kočani were suspended in May 2021. Also the service to Hani - Elezit is reported not to have operated since March 2020. This is despite all these services still being shown in the ŽRSMT timetables.
A proposal to construct a new line from Kičevo to Struga in Albania was approved by the government on 22 September 2020. However, as they must now obtain funding of €426m, nothing is likely to happen for a long time.
According to a news release on the mzt web site the Skopje – Hani i Elezit (- Prishtinë) service resumed regular operation on 9 March 2020 after a period during which technical problems prevented it from running regularly. However, the service was again suspended at the end of the same week due to Covid travel restrictions. The service remains in the North Macedonian timetable and may be running between Skopje and Hani i Elezit although the line north of Hani i Elezit has been closed temporarily since May 2020 for upgrade work - see Border Crossings: Kosovo - North Macedonia.
Plans have existed for many years to extend the currently disused Kumanovo to Beljakovce branch onwards to Kriva Palanka and the border at Deve Bair to reach Gyueshevo in Bulgaria. The route forms part of proposed Pan-European Corridor VIII, now supported by the EU as part of their Western Balkans infrastructure upgrade plans. In 2012 the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) provided a €46.4m loan for the rehabilitation of the first section from Kumanovo to Beljakovce (30.8km). The EU followed this up with €283m in 2017 towards the construction of the middle section to Kriva Palanka (33.3km), then in February 2022 a further €412m towards the construction of the final section to Deve Bair (23.5km) and the Bulgarian border which will be roughly half way through a 2.35km long tunnel. Work stopped on the first section in May 2020 when the contractor pulled out, however a new contractor was appointed in July 2022 for the first two sections and work is expected to resume in September, with completion of the entire route to Bulgaria being promised for 2027.
Work resumed in February 2018 on rebuilding the Bitola - Kremenica - Neos Kafkasos (Greece) line, which has been out of use for several years. It was to have reopened by 2014 but the project has been subject to delays and cancellations. As at June 2019 track was complete across the border with Greece.
With effect from 21 August 2015 and until further notice the Thessaloniki - Idomeni - Gevgelija section of the Thessaloniki - Beograd service was provided by a coach connection, initially due to the migrant crisis. This was reduced even further from 20 October 2016 when services between Niš(ŽS) and Skopje were suspended because of engineering work but reinstated to/from Gevgelija for the summer season from 1 June 2017. By 2018 the only passenger service operating over the Tabanovci - Preševo border crossing into Serbia were summer-only train pair 334 and 335 between Topčider (Beograd) and Thessaloníki via Skopje. These ran from 1 June to 1 October 2018 but have not run since and even then the cross-border service into Greece between Gevgelija and Thessaloníki was still provided by buses.
Services over the Gevgelija - Idomeni cross-border into Greece have been intermittently suspended previously, it ceased from 13 February 2011 along with all other border crossings with Greece but then a weekly summer-only service reportedly ran between July and September 2012. Then the Beograd [overnight] - Skopje - Thessaloniki and vv summer only services were reintroduced from 10 May 2014 until as above.