18 December 2017

Rail Baltica as a railway bond between the Baltic States

In the context of rail transport connections within the frames of cooperation between the Baltic States it is also worth to mention Rail Baltica. The project, which is part of the trans-European TEN-T network, involves the creation of a connection between Warsaw, Kaunas, Riga, Tallinn and Helsinki; the normal gauge railway line will enable travel at a speed of 160 km/h. Construction works on the longest part of the route through Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania (approx. 500 km) will commence in 2019, while the last section of Tallinn-Helsinki, involving the construction of a 50-kilometre underwater tunnel, is planned for the years 2025-2026. The situation looks a little more promising in Poland, where some sections are already under construction, and the whole investment is supposed to be finalized before the year 2023. The only fully completed section, 119 km in its length, is located on the route between Kaunas and the Polish-Lithuanian border. This undertaking is very important, as the most common railway track gauge in Europe (including Poland) is the standard gauge (1435 mm), whereas in Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia the majority of the tracks use the broad gauge (1520 mm).

In the case of cross-border transports, this requires the goods to be reloaded to different cars or changing of bogies, both involving additional costs and wasted time. The handling of trans-shipments between different trackside types takes place, among others, in the Lithuanian container terminal in Šeštokai. The trains departing from that terminal arrive at the Kazakh-Chinese border within 6-7 days, and loading itself takes only 4 hours