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The European Commission and Baltic trains meet in Kaunas for the first time

Date

2021 09 22

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As part of the celebration of the European Year of Rail 2021 the European Commission (EC) train that pulled out of Lisbon and travelled across Europe and the Baltic Express meet in Kaunas. The meeting of these trains, arriving on different gauges, marks the future of train travel for passengers and businesses alike. The Rail Baltica project will bring Tallinn within reach of a European-standard railway, but so far Kaunas is the furthest eastern Lithuanian city that can be reached by the European-standard railway from Western Europe.

The guests were greeted by representatives of the transport sector arriving at Kaunas by trains - Catherine Trautmann, Coordinator for the TEN-T North Sea-Baltic Corridor, Vice-Ministers of the three Baltic States, Mantas Bartuška, Chief Executive Officer of Lietuvos Geležinkeliai, Andrius Palionis, Vice-Mayor of Kaunas City Municipality.

“While this meeting of the two trains is focused on the European Year of Railways, for the people of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia it means much more - the integration of the Baltic States into the European rail system through the developing Rail Baltica railway. The cooperation with Poland and the participation of Finland will further stimulate the development of the North-Baltic Corridor and, at the same time, will provide faster, convenient and safe alternatives for passenger and freight transport," said the Vice-Minister of Transport and Communications Loreta Maskaliovienė. 

“On the Baltic Express, we discussed the potential of Baltic rail transport and the challenges and opportunities for its development with colleagues from the EC, Latvia and Estonia at the Business and Politics Forum. A major breakthrough is expected after the implementation of the Rail Baltica project, as then train travel will become much faster. For instance, if the Vilnius-Tallinn route were reopened, the journey would merely take 4 hours compared to 10 hours we've just travelled. We hope that in a few years Kaunas station will welcome tourists from a number of countries visited by Connecting Europe Express and the Kaunas intermodal terminal will be used for transhipment of rail freight from Europe to Lithuania," said Mantas Bartuška.

The European Commission has declared 2021 the European Year of Rail. This initiative aims to encourage more travelling and freight transport by train. Rail transport is recognised as one of the greenest modes of transport and its development is a priority for the Green Deal.

The Connecting Europe Express in one of the initiatives of the EC. The train, which left Lisbon in the first days of September, will finish its European journey in Paris on 7 October. It will have travelled 20,000 kilometres and visited more than 70 cities and 26 countries during its journey. 

Rail Baltica, the international project representing the integration of the Baltic rail infrastructure, will fundamentally change both travel and freight transport patterns. The new railway line will cover the Tallinn-Pernau-Riga-Panevėžys-Kaunas-Lithuanian-Polish border and the Kaunas-Vilnius branch. The new line will be 1435 mm wide and will comply with all Technical Specifications for Interoperability (TSIs).

As part of the first phase of Rail Baltica, a European-standard railway from the Lithuanian-Polish border to Kaunas was built in 2015. This year, following the reconstruction of the Kaunas railway node, the European rail track reached the Kaunas intermodal terminal resulting in launch of regular direct freight train routes between Lithuania and Europe.