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Transportation in Albania

Table of contents
1 Overview
2 Railways
3 Highways
4 Waterways
5 Airways
6 Reference
7 External links


In the early 1990s, the rock-strewn roadways, unstable rail lines, and obsolete telephone network crisscrossing Albania represented the remnants of the marked improvements that were made after World War II. Enver Hoxha's xenophobia and lust for control had kept Albania isolated, however, as the communications revolution transformed the wider world into a global village. Even internal travel amounted to something of a luxury for many Albanians during communism's ascendancy. For years, peasants needed special passes to visit nearby districts, and until 1990 the government banned private ownership of automobiles. Urban mass transit consisted primarily of bus lines for ferrying workers between home and work. Breakdowns in Tirana's bus lines sometimes forced employees to walk to work or pay for rides in the beds of passing trucks. The communications system sustained severe damage in the chaos of the economic collapse as people ripped down telephone lines to use as fencing. Despite generally deteriorating conditions, the importation of fleets of used cars and buses and popular hunger for contact with the outside world raised hopes that matters would improve.


Albania's standard-gauge rail lines linked Shkodėr with Durrės, Tirana, Elbasan, Pogradec, Ballsh, and Vlorė. The country's only international rail link, opened in 1986, connected Shkodėr with Yugoslavia's rail system. Albania's communist government focused on developing new rail lines to serve mining regions and the coastal plain. According to official figures, Albania's railroad in 1987 and 1988 carried about 33 percent of the country's total freight tonnage for that period. The opening of the rail link with Yugoslavia facilitated the movement of goods to Europe, and Yugoslav railroads reportedly shipped 174,300 tons of Albanian goods in the first half of 1990, a 19.4 percent increase over the first half of 1989. None of Albania's railroads was electrified. In 1991 vandals and thieves caused so much damage to the tracks and rolling stock that the rail system's transport capacity was cut in half; operations later ceased altogether.


The total length of Albania's roads had more than doubled in about three decades, and by the 1980s almost all of the country's remote mountain areas were connected, at least by dirt roads, with the capital city and ports. The country's roads, however, were generally narrow, poorly marked, pocked with holes, and in the early 1990s often crowded with pedestrians and people riding mules, bicycles, and horse-drawn carts. Even in tiny villages, hundreds of people of all ages gathered daily along main roads waving their arms seeking rides, and gangs of children often blocked rural highways hoping to coax foreign travelers into tossing them candy. Heavy snowfalls cut off some mountain areas for weeks at a time. Central government funding of local road maintenance effectively ended in 1991, and the breakdown of repair vehicles because of a lack of spare parts threatened to close access to some remote areas. A group of Greek construction companies signed a protocol with the Albanian government in July 1990 to build a 200 kilometer road across the southern part of the country, extending from the Albanian-Greek border to Durrės. The project was scheduled to last four years and cost US$500 million.

Despite the appalling quality of Albania's roads, most of the country's freight was conveyed over them in a fleet of about 15,000 smoke-belching trucks. According to official figures, in 1987 Albania's roadways carried about 66 percent of the country's total freight tonnage. In 1991 the Albanian government lifted the decades-old ban on private-vehicle ownership. The country's roads, once almost devoid of motor traffic, began filling up with recklessly driven cars that had been snapped up in used-car lots across Europe. Car imports numbered about 1,500 per month, and a black-market car lot began operating just off Tirana's main square. Traffic in the capital remained light, but traffic lights and other control devices were urgently needed to deal with the multiplying number of privately owned cars. Albanian entrepreneurs also imported used Greek buses and started carrying passengers on intercity routes that did not exist or had been poorly serviced during the communist era. Gangs of hijackers and thieves, who preyed on truck and automobile traffic, made road travel hazardous in some regions.


Albania's main seaports are Durrės, Vlorė, Sarandė, and Shėngjin. By 1983 there was regular ferry, freight, and passenger service from Durrės to Trieste, Italy. In 1988 ferry service was established between Sarandė and the Greek island of Corfu. A regular lake ferry linked the Macedonian town of Ohrid with Pogradec. The estimated total displacement of Albania's merchant fleet was 56,000 tons in 1986. The limited capacity of the wharves at Durrės caused severe bottlenecks in the distribution of foreign food aid in 1991.


Crude oil 196 km; petroleum products 55 km; natural gas 64 km (1996)

Ports and Harbors
Durrės, Sarandė, Shėngjin, Vlorė

Merchant Marine


1977 Albania's government signed an agreement with Greece, opening the country's first air links with noncommunist Europe. By 1991 Tirana had air links with many major European cities, including Paris, Rome, Zürich, Vienna, and Budapest. Tirana was served by a small airport located twenty-eight kilometers from the capital at the village of Rinas. Albania had no regular domestic air service. A Franco-Albanian joint venture launched Albania's first private airline, Ada Air, in 1991. The company offered flights in a thirty-six-passenger airplane four days each week between Tirana and Bari, Italy, and a charter service for domestic and international destinations.




Much of the material in this article comes from the
CIA World Factbook 2002.

External links