WHY TRAINS OF THE FEDERATION OF BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA RAILWAYS DERAIL: Corruption, Poor Management, and Catastrophic Infrastructure

The operations and overall state of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina Railways (Željeznice FBiH) are a reflection of the staffing scheme of the SDA (Party of Democratic Action), characterized by overstaffing, in this case, railways that lead nowhere, tracks overgrown with weeds, and machines corroded by rust. Trains that smell and are notoriously late, even in the midst of the tourist season which has started, are a story in themselves.

Foto: Fuad Fočo, archive

Investigative Team Valter

Last Thursday (June 27), around 300 passengers boarded the train on the Sarajevo-Čapljina route. However, their journey on the neglected Talgo train of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina Railways (Željeznice FBiH) did not last long. In Pazarić, after just half an hour of travel, the train derailed. Passengers were ejected from the carriages and continued their journey to Čapljina by bus.

Two days earlier, on June 25, at around 18:55, between the railway stations Grad and Konjic, one axle of the locomotive of freight train number 48/121, which was travelling on the Rajlovac – Čapljina route, derailed, causing material damage over a length of about 70 metres. This happened just a few days after a similar incident when a carriage derailed on a bridge without a safety fence.


Fortunately, besides material damage, there were no injuries. A few years ago, the guide rails (which prevent the train from slipping off the tracks) were removed from the bridges and never replaced.

This year alone, there have been numerous similar incidents. Notably, on May 9, a train travelling from Sarajevo to Mostar also derailed. Passengers, like those last Thursday from Konjic, were transported to their destination by bus.

Engine drivers, including many new recruits, reported to company management in March 2023 that such incidents would occur. They noted that on the Konjic route, “the mile markers are not visible, and the rails are corroded”. They also mentioned that guide rails are missing on all bridges, “compromising traffic safety”, and that the signal markers for inclines and declines are “worn out and invisible”.

Desperate appeals of train drivers to the company management

Our portal possesses numerous reports that workers and engine drivers have sent to all relevant addresses in recent years. Especially after the traffic accident at Donja Jablanica railway station on August 22, 2018, where two people died, and a third severely injured person died after about ten days in the hospital. It is worth recalling that the accident involved two trains, one locomotive with 18 and the other with 36 carriages.

Three people died in the accident 

The then-president of the FBiH Train Drivers’ Union, Vernes Buljugija, stated that the government, ministers, and railway management acted as if nothing had happened. A year later, the Union directly blamed the FBiH Government for the accident.

“Since we consider you directly responsible for this situation, for the deaths of our colleagues and the enormous material damage, all due to your political interests and party squabbles, we demand that you immediately submit irrevocable resignations from your positions, which you certainly have not earned”, they stated in their announcement.

Meanwhile, members of the State Investigation and Protection Agency of Bosnia and Herzegovina (SIPA), following the order of the BiH Prosecutor's Office, seized documentation from Željeznice FBiH related to the Bradina-Sarajevo railway renovation. SIPA inspectors asked this company, which conducted the tender procedure, to explain how and why the contract with the Italian firm GCF, which was awarded the railway renovation job in 2015, was terminated.

Report to SIPA from the company headquarters by employees

Sources from Valter highlight that the investigation should determine who and why unilaterally terminated the contract with the Italians, worth 25 million euros. The entire project was financed by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), and after the contract termination, the job was awarded to a company from Pale. The prosecutor's office never investigated who made the decision to terminate the contract or the corruption suspicions. While the prosecutor's office remained inactive, the Italian company GCF won the case against the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina Railways in an international court.


Although there are many records and reports, the unfinished railway renovation was internally accepted by a commission from the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina Railways (Željeznice FBiH) without representatives of the contractors and supervisory authorities.

“The major repair of the southern railway, used by the Talgo train, was carried out by Austrian companies Swietelsky and Poor, while the Sarajevo-Bradina railway section and the rehabilitation of the Ivan tunnel were handled by the JV Generale Costruzioni Ferroviarie S.p.a. GCF – Hering d.d. consortium. The supervisory authority for this section was the consulting firm AECOM, whose representatives oversaw the works and signed the consent for establishing passenger traffic in this section. After AECOM's supervisory authority representatives signed the consent and after the measuring (control) ride and machine regulation of the track, the expert commission from JP ŽFBiH d.o.o. Sarajevo conducted an internal technical inspection and acceptance of the works, confirming that conditions for normal railway traffic at the designed speeds were met”, responded Željeznice FBiH to Valter, adding that “in this case, it was not a newly built or reconstructed railway, but a major repair of the railway and rehabilitation of the Ivan tunnel”.

We also possess the latest documents which, according to our sources from Željeznice, prove that company director Enis Džafić formed commissions from loyal individuals to cover up inefficiencies. These documents best illustrate the current state of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina Railways.


A significant portion of employees, who for understandable reasons cannot speak out publicly, believe that the current management of this company, led by General Director Džafić, is anything but competent, as evidenced by numerous photographs of neglected infrastructure that we are publishing.

We recall that in December last year, the Nikšić Government of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina appointed new management, and Enis Džafić, a long-time SDA director of the railways, was reappointed as acting director. The executive directors are Mario Kozina, Zlatko Jelić, Ajdin Hrbat, Ema Duran Živanović, and Adnan Kubat. The railways were allocated to Naša Stranka in the distribution of the political spoils, and NS President Edin Forto decided to keep Džafić in his position despite opposition within Forto's party.


Forto previously stated to our portal that he “does not know the political career of acting director Džafić”.

“Through participation in the Federal government, Naša Stranka supported his work as acting director of the railways”, Forto said at the time.


What is indicative is that someone who was a proven member of the SDA overnight became a “trusted person” of the new government (the troika) and was rewarded with another term at the helm of the struggling giant.

In the meantime, Director Džafić managed to defend his master's thesis at the private International University of Travnik on the topic: “The Impact of Small and Medium Enterprises on the Economic Development of Bosnia and Herzegovina”, interestingly the same topic defended by his close associate from the company, Belma Bašić.

Director Džafić is evidently also inclined towards nepotism, appointing close relatives to responsible positions, such as his first cousin Mahira Hadžimejlić, whom he appointed to the Office of Internal Audit. This very institution led the process of accepting the Southern Railway without oversight.

This is a clear conflict of interest, violating Article 12 of the Law on Internal Audit in the Public Sector of FBiH, which states that no one who has held a directorial position or is related to the director can be appointed—in this case, the general director. It is worth noting that Hadžimejlić was the director of the Sector before her appointment.

However, for Željeznice FBiH, nothing seems to be problematic.

“Mahira Hadžimejlić, with a degree in economics, was appointed in 2022 by the decision of the company's management, relieved of her duties as Director of the Sector, and reassigned to the position of internal auditor in the Internal Audit Department. This position has a lower salary and complexity coefficient compared to the position of Director of the Accounting Sector. Her reassignment was done because the Office for Auditing Institutions in FBiH ordered JP ŽFBiH d.o.o. Sarajevo to fill the Internal Audit Department with appropriate professional staff. The appointed employee is not in a conflict of interest according to the Law on Accounting and Auditing in FBiH”, stated the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina Railways in their response.

Thus, according to the railways’ interpretation, this law has a hidden preamble that allows first cousins of management to be appointed to positions, which is hard to believe.


In addition to train derailments, major safety concerns on the tracks, corruption, nepotism, and clientelism within the company, the issue is that today the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina Railways (Željeznice FBiH) are run by inexperienced train drivers who are still learning to drive, while professional train drivers fail to pass the recruitment process.

One such driver is Alen Buljubašić. He previously sued and, he says, won against Željeznice FBiH for not paying his pension contributions for 17 years. Because he “fell out of favour” with the management, he now cannot pass the recruitment process, even though he is one of the few train drivers in Bosnia and Herzegovina who has passed exams to operate all types of locomotives. The railway commission explained that they could not accept his certificate of non-criminal record issued by the Municipal Court in Srebrenik.

“They asked me for a statement as if I worked at the court”, Buljubašić told Valter. He is also known for avoiding a direct train collision at the Dobošica station, saving many lives and saving the company that now refuses to hire him about two million BAM.

The public is unaware that today train drivers hired by Željeznice FBiH first learn signals, braking and manoeuvring instructions, traffic instructions, and more. Only after four months do they take the train driver exams.

Should it still be surprising that since the beginning of the year, Željeznice FBiH trains have derailed nearly 10 times?

Some members of the Federal Parliament, such as Sanel Kajan from DF, are raising questions about the legality of operations and the non-adoption of the annual business report of Željeznice FBiH, demanding the resignation of the director and management.

However, it's not just poor business operations and management that are the problem, but also the catastrophic state of the Željeznice FBiH infrastructure. As we have previously written, new trains are not being procured, the existing ones are almost unusable, and the railway tracks are rusted and have destroyed sleepers in many parts.

Unfortunately, the business operations and overall condition of the company and infrastructure reflect the staffing scheme of the SDA, which means excess employees, in this case, tracks that lead nowhere, overgrown tracks, and machines corroded by rust. Trains that stink and are notoriously late, even during the tourist season that has begun, are a story in themselves.

We remind you that rail traffic, along with digitalization, is a key priority of the Ministry of Transport and Communications of Bosnia and Herzegovina, led by Minister Edin Forto. At least it should be.

However, as things stand now, we are more likely to reach Europe on foot than by train. However, it cannot be said that “pro-European” work is not being done at all, as evidenced by the fact that the Croatian company SedraRail overnight became the main partner of Željeznice FBiH in providing forwarding services two years ago.



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