VILNIUS – Minsk wants to relaunch passenger train services to Vilnius, halted two years ago due to the coronavirus pandemic, but Lithuania's state-owned railway company says it does not plan to do so either this year or next.
"Passenger train services between Vilnius and Minsk have been suspended since 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic began," Kotryna Dzikaraite, spokeswoman for LTG Link, the passenger transport subsidiary of Lietuvos Gelezinkeliai (Lithuanian Railways, LTG), told BNS.
"In light of all the circumstances, no services between the capitals of Lithuania and Belarus are planned for 2023 either," she added.
LTG has received an offer from Belarusian Railways to relaunch the Vilnius-Minsk route, but this is not envisaged in LTG Link's immediate plans, according to the spokeswoman.
LTG Link says annual timetables for international traffic on the Russian 1520-milimeter gauge are agreed once a year, by the middle of the current year, and come into force in December.
Minsk also wants to resume passenger services with Latvia and Poland, suspended in March 2020 due to the pandemic, according to the Belarusian Ministry of Transport and Communications.
"With the improvement of the epidemiological situation and the lifting of travel restrictions, Belarus has repeatedly offered to resume international passenger services (by rail with the three countries), but to no avail," the ministry said in a statement.
"Buses now run daily from Minsk to Vilnius, Riga and Warsaw, with a steady increase in passenger traffic," it added.
Before the pandemic, Lithuania, Latvia and Poland accounted for around a fifth of Belarus' overall international passenger train traffic, according to the ministry.