Romania's president has approved a plan to upgrade the country's antiquated and notoriously slow railway system and integrate it into the European rail network.

President Klaus Iohannis on Tuesday called the rail network "a strategic sector for national security and for Romania's development."

Trains run at an average speed of 80 kilometers an hour (50 mph). A train ride from Bucharest to the major city of Cluj, 500 kilometers (310 miles) northwest of the capital, takes between 10-14 hours.

Marius Chiper, general manager of the CFR state railway network, says cargo trains only travel at an average of 19 kph (12 mph), the same speed as trains traveled 80 years ago.

There are faster rail links from Bucharest to the Black Sea port Constanta and the central city of Brasov.