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Ministers of Transport of the Baltic States Met in Tallinn to Discuss Passenger Train Services Between the Countries and Agreed to Speed Up the Rail Baltica Project

Date

2023 01 23

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The Ministers of Transport of the Baltic States met in Tallinn on Monday and agreed to strengthen cooperation to improve mutual and international logistics links, and to discuss the possibility of launching passenger train services between the Baltic capitals. They also agreed to speed up the implementation of the European railway Rail Baltica. Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia will work together to develop the North–South Transport Corridor with the aim of creating an additional transport link with Ukraine. 

On Monday, in the capital of Estonia, Minister Skuodis met the Ministers of Transport of Latvia and Estonia, Mr Jānis Vitenbergs and Ms Riina Sikkut, who jointly signed a meeting agreement at the end of the meeting.

The Ministers discussed the possibility of launching the passenger train services from Vilnius to Riga and Tallinn before the construction of the Rail Baltica railway is completed. On the Lithuanian side, such a train could start running in the near future, but, according to Minister Skuodis, this would require the joint agreement of all the Baltic States. 

“Such a train would be a natural complement to the train service from Vilnius to Warsaw and Krakow, which launched in December 2022. This passenger train which would create a link between the Baltic capitals before the completion of the Rail Baltica project means not only an increase in travel options for the population, but also a contribution to the development of environmentally friendly rail transport,” says Minister Skuodis.

Estonian Minister Sikkut supports the inclusion of such a train in the region: “Modern transport infrastructure is one of the key factors for strengthening economic ties, which is why the completion of the Rail Baltica project is our top geopolitical and economic priority. However, while Rail Baltica is under construction, we could consider transporting passengers on the existing Vilnius-Riga-Tallinn route.”

“We value the discussions on the development of passenger transport by rail in the Baltic States. It is necessary to agree on the conditions under which this could happen and to use the already existing routes by adjusting them accordingly,” says Latvia’s Minister of Transport Jānis Vitenbergs.

Minister Skuodis and his Latvian and Estonian counterparts also discussed the implementation of Rail Baltica, an important railway infrastructure project for the Baltic States and the European Union (EU). According to the Minister of Transport and Communications of the Republic of Lithuania, our country will try to complete its part of the project as early as possible and to establish the link with Poland by 2028. 

“Lithuania’s goal is to have most of the work on the European gauge railway to Panevėžys completed by 2024 and to be ready for construction on all other sections. The rapid and smooth construction of the European gauge railway line throughout the region is essential to ensure a wider range of passenger and freight transport options, while at the same time taking into account national security needs, which are particularly pressing in this age,” noted Minister of Transport and Communications Skuodis.

At the beginning of this year, Lithuania, together with Latvia, Estonia and the joint venture between the Baltic States RB Rail AS, submitted applications for additional EU funding for the implementation of the European gauge railway Rail Baltica. The total value of the application of the three Baltic States is EUR 1.15 billion, of which Lithuania has a direct share of EUR 400 million.

The Ministers of the Baltic States also stressed that, at the same time as the intensive construction of Rail Baltica is taking place, there is a need for a joint plan of the Baltic States for a coordinated transition of the Baltic rail network to the European gauge standard. In addition, the establishment of a joint Task Force shall increase the independence of the Baltic rail sector in the near future. 

The meeting also highlighted the need for cooperation between the Baltic States on the development of the transport corridors of the Baltic Sea, the Black Sea and the Adriatic Sea and additional links to improve connectivity with both Western Europe and Ukraine. In 2022, since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, Lithuanian Railways has already operated around 150 trains between Lithuania and Ukraine.