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Direct train service between Baltics and Warsaw

By Howard Jarvis. 10.06.2010

Rail Baltica
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A precursor to what many in the Baltic countries hope will be a high-speed rail link between Berlin and the Baltics has been mentioned in Tallinn.

At a press conference this week on the subject of the Rail Baltica, a long-awaited high-speed rail link between Berlin and Tallinn via Riga that would slash overland travel times and create a genuine competitor for air transport, the Estonian economy minister said that direct train travel to Warsaw could open in about a year.
Minister of Economic Affairs and Communications Juhan Parts commented that a direct train service between Tallinn and Warsaw would be available sooner than expected, but would be launched on existing infrastructure. He did not mean the implementation of Rail Baltica itself, since the latter project will involve the time-consuming process of laying hundreds of kilometers of new track.
“Such a thing as a Tallinn-Warsaw train service might be possible in a year, maybe a little bit more,” Parts said.
After years of foot-dragging, the first bilateral memoranda on the Rail Baltica were signed in 2007. A route for the bullet trains, which will reach speeds of 250 km/h, has been agreed by the Baltic countries and a full feasibility study got underway in April 2010.
One of the priority projects of the European Union’s Trans-European Transport Networks (TEN-T), Rail Baltica will result in the more efficient integration of the Baltic countries into Europe. Studies have shown that with distance of between 300 and 1,500 kilometers the train is more competitive in Europe than the plane.
At the moment, however, there is no direct train link between the Baltic capitals. The existing lines in the network were built well over 100 years ago and two-thirds of the track is so full of curves that trains have to chug slowly around them at little more than 60 km/h. Trains also run on a gauge built for the Soviet republics that is different to the rest of Europe.
Laying a brand new line would cost EUR 1.7 million for every single kilometer. The total cost for a new high-speed track where passengers do not have to endure changing trains in Lithuania because of the gauge change would cost EUR 2.4 billion.
However, in a meeting with Rail Baltica European Union Coordinator Pavel Telicka earlier this year, Parts stated that cooperation between the three Baltic states and the European Commission was continuing as planned. Telicka responded that the topic will be raised at the next pan-European transport network conference later this year.

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