VILNIUS - The extension to Tallinn of the passenger train service between Vilnius and Riga, launched on Wednesday, depends on agreements between Latvian and Estonian officials, Transport Minister Marius Skuodis has said.
According to him, Latvia and Estonia are currently negotiating a link between Riga and the Estonian city of Tartu, to which the Vilnius-Riga train timetable could be adapted.
"It is very difficult for me to speak about projects that I do not have much direct influence on, because the Estonians and Latvians have to agree first," Skuodis told reporters in Vilnius on Wednesday, answering a question on whether a passenger train between Vilnius and Tallinn could be launched in the current term of government.
"Negotiations are already underway for a link between Riga and Tartu, and we have that [rail] link from Tartu to Tallinn. If the connection between Riga and Tartu is made, I think we will be able to adjust the timetables [to the Vilnius-Riga route]," the minister said.
Skuodis could not say whether the Riga-Tartu passenger train would be a continuation of the Vilnius-Riga route or a separate route: "It would depend on how we agree.”
Meanwhile, the passenger train link with the Latvian city of Daugavpils, which is being considered, will depend on how Lithuania and Latvia manage to resolve the rolling stock shortage, he said.
"For us in Lithuania, the main challenge is rolling stock, so that we have the trains. The trains are currently being produced. The same challenge is on the Latvian side," Skuodis said.
"It depends on which country will have spare capacity to run the 20 kilometers [between Turmantas and Daugavpils] to one or the other country so that passengers could change trains. And soon I hope that we will have a direct connection," the transport minister noted.
Early this year, the ministers of the three Baltic countries agreed on possibilities of launching passenger train services between Vilnius, Riga and Tallinn before the completion of the European standard-gauge railway Rail Baltica.
The first train of the reopened Vilnius-Riga direct route of LTG Link, the passenger arm of Lietuvos Gelezinkeliai (Lithuanian Railways, LTG), Lithuania's state-owned railway company, departed from Vilnius Railway Station on Wednesday morning fully packed.
The train route between Vilnius and Riga was agreed by the transport ministers of the three Baltic States in October. It is expected to be extended to Tallinn in the future.
Estonian and Latvian media reported in late October that a passenger train service between Riga and Tartu was planned to be launched in 2024.