On the 21st of September, a special Baltic States express train started its journey from Tallinn to Vilnius to celebrate the European Year of Rail. For the first time together aboard this train, are the ministers of transport of all three Baltic States, along with the representatives from the Baltic States rail and the European Commission (EC). Minister of Transport and Communications of the Republic of Lithuania Marius Skuodis, crossing the Baltic States by this train, remarked that this event demonstrates the Baltic States’ will to integrate into the European railway network and the importance of the Rail Baltica project. He also states that using the already existing infrastructure would enable regular train operation between Vilnius, Riga and Tallinn.
“The strategic Rail Baltica project uniting the Baltic States and the neighbouring countries such as Poland and Finland, is undoubtedly about to change transport systems of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, and will provide new possibilities for the citizens and national economies. Nevertheless, by that time it is necessary to exploit the potential of the existing infrastructure network by ensuring regular passenger train routes between the capitals of the Baltic States. I am confident that we will continue this successful and mutually beneficial dialogue,” Marius Skuodis said.
According to the Minister, following the opening of Kaunas intermodal terminal, freight trains can already reach Lithuania by the European gauge railway line. Regular passenger transport by train Vilnius–Riga would in turn result in a double benefit: convenient arrival for tourists along with reduced CO2 emissions by 950 tonnes per year. The Minister believes that the possibility to extend this route to Tallinn remains an option to be considered.
As of the middle of the next year, Vilnius and Warsaw should also be connected by a direct train route. This matter was recently discussed with Polish Minister of Infrastructure Andrzej Adamczyk during Marius Skuodis’ visit in Poland.
Latvian Minister of Transport Talis Linkaitis emphasized the paramount importance of Rail Baltica to Europe: “Constructions of Rail Baltica line has begun. It is important that we plan not only international rail passenger and freight transportation on Rail Baltica line, but also regional. We will have a new infrastructure that will connect us with our neighbours in the Baltics by rail, allow us to improve economic cooperation and regional development.”
Estonian Minister of Economic Affairs and Infrastructure Taavi Aas stated that Rail Baltica is the strategic and long-term international project involving railway infrastructure and logistics chain development, focused on high-quality passenger transport and freight services between the Baltic States, Finland and other EU countries. “The future of railway is bright. As we are facing a global challenge of climate change, this is where we can also play a strategic role by implementing the EU Green Deal targets.”
Aboard the Baltic express are: the European Coordinator for the TEN-T North Sea-Baltic Corridor Catherine Trautmann, Director-General of the European Commission’s department for Mobility and Transport Henrik Hololei, the railway sector representatives of the Baltic States and Finland.
Tomorrow, on the 22nd of September, the Baltic States train is to continue its journey from Vilnius to Kaunas where it is to have a symbolic meeting with the trans-European train, Connecting Europe Express, coming from Lisbon. By 7 October it is to run through more than 70 cities and 26 countries by completing a journey of 20 thousand kilometres. This is one of the EC 2021 European Year of Rail initiatives.