EUROPE: Lithuania’s Minister of Transport & Communications Rokas Masiulis met European Co-ordinator for the TEN-T North Sea-Baltic Corridor Catherine Trautmann on March 22 to discuss the progress of the Rail Baltica project to build a 1 435 mm gauge line from Poland to Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.

Trautmann assured the minister that the European Commission considers the full implementation of Rail Baltica to be an important priority project, and said she was ‘pleased to see the new government of Lithuania ensuring the continuation of the Rail Baltica project and proceeding with its implementation at a rapid pace'.

Masiulis said regular freight services were expected to start in the near future on the 1 435 mm gauge tracks which have been laid between from the Polish border to Kaunas, and this would highlight the economic viability of the project. Freight services would be extended to the Palemonas intermodal terminal ‘as early as 2019–20'.

Plans for the 55 km new alignment from Kaunas to the Latvian border have been approved, and Lithuania has secured EU Connecting Europe Facility funding of €340m for Rail Baltica to 2021. The minister also said it would be necessary to secure funding for a standard gauge connection from Kaunas to Vilnius, which is not on the main Rail Baltica route.

Further EU funding would be needed in 2021–27 for the continuation of the line to Latvia and Estonia. Members of the European Parliament’s Transport Committee are to visit Lithuania in May, and will see the progress which has been made so far.