Rail Baltica may get new life

  • 2003-01-23

Lithuanian and Polish government authorities and businesses are planning to enhance cooperation in their attempts to implement Rail Baltica, according to news reports.

Rail Baltica, a European standard-gauge railway line project and refereed to as the "First European transport corridor" in international documents, has not been launched yet.

It has been expected that the project would be financed under the European Union's ISPA program designed for pre-accession countries. However, following the accession to the EU, the funds will no longer be available, the daily Lietuvos Rytas reported.

"A European standard-gauge railway line is of utmost importance to the Baltic states. Traffic levels on the Via Baltica highway reach about 1 million vehicles per year, but only six trains operate on the railway line joining Lithuania and Poland," said Albertas Aruna, director of Transporto Investicijos.

Annual freight volumes via Lithuanian railways amount to 36 million tons, while the volume of freight carried via the "first corridor" reaches as little as 300,000 tons. The bulk of annual road freight (9 million tons) is carried via the Lithuanian/Polish border.

"Lithuania and Poland need to either widen the highways or reconstruct the railways," Aruna said.

The railway joining Lithuania and Poland was built in 1898. It was not in use for a long time and it fails to meet the current needs.

Ireneusz Krupa, director of the investment office of the Polish railway company, said Poland uses ISPA funds primarily for the modernization of some sections of the Second European railway corridor joining Berlin, Warsaw and Moscow.

Poland has also prepared the projects on the reconstruction of the Warsaw-Kaunas-Tallinn highway, which would be launched in 2005.

Algimantas Sakalys, deputy director of the Lithuanian Tranport Institute, said it is essential that Lithuania and Poland agree to carry out joint projects following accession to the EU. This would enable the two countries to qualify for support from the EU Cohesion Fund, which finances projects at the national level.