Home World The EU's incredible new £4.9bn train line that will connect 4 of...

The EU's incredible new £4.9bn train line that will connect 4 of Europe's capital cities

A huge £4.97billion (€5.8bn) project is being carried out to integrate the Baltic states into the European rail network.

The initiative, called Rail Baltica, is the largest Baltic-region infrastructure project in the last 100 years and consists of the creation of a 540-mile rail infrastructure starting from Tallinn, in Estonia, and reaching Warsaw, in Poland.

Rail Baltica has been created to integrate the Baltic states’ rail network into the wider European Union network and will become the first large-scale mainline standard gauge railway in the area.

As former Soviet Union nations, Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia still largely rely on a rail network built in the second half of the 19th century with Russian gauge.

Measuring 1520mm, this gauge is not compatible with the standard gauge measuring 1435mm used in other EU countries, including Poland.

Rail Baltica will initially link four EU capital cities – Estonia’s Tallinn, Latvia’s Riga, Lithuania’s Vilnius and Poland’s Warsaw.

However, there is scope for the integration also of Helsinki, in Finland, if the proposed undersea tunnel aiming to link the Finnish capital to Estonia is approved.

For now, the Rail Baltica project envisions seven international stations before reaching Warsaw – with stops at Tallinn, Pärnu, Riga, Riga Airport, Panevėžys, Kaunas and Vilnius.

Moreover, Estonia’s Muuga Harbour, the Latvian town of Salaspils and Lithuania’s Kaunas will become home to three freight train stations.

The all-electric trains will run exclusively on sustainable energy. Passenger trains will reach a maximum speed of 249kph (154.7mph), while freight trains will reach 120kph (74.5mph).

To allow the passage of high-speed trains, the already existing Polish section connecting Rail Baltica to the rest of the bloc is also being upgraded.

This project has placed the attention on sustainability. Besides being fully electrified, Rail Baltica has been planned to avoid the Natura 2000 protected areas as far as possible and to have little impact on the area it crosses. To achieve this, the project includes the creation of noise barriers and special animal passages among other measures.

85 percent of Rail Baltica is being funded by the EU’s Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) fund, while the rest is going to be paid by Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

Works officially began in 2019, with a goal to launch the first operations on sections of the railway in 2028 and to complete the overall corridor by 2030.


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