Preparations on a 9-kilometre segment of the European-gauge railway Rail Baltica between Kaunas Railway Station to Palemonas, an industrial area in Lithuania's second-biggest city, have been completed and the actual construction work is now getting underway, with the total value of the project put at €66 million.
“This is proof that the project we have been discussing and preparing for for years is already underway,” Transport and Communications Minister Rokas Masiulis said at a news conference in Kaunas on Thursday.
“We are launching the key phase of what is one of the largest projects region-wide, a Rail Baltica link from the Kaunas station to the Kaunas Intermodal Terminal. Work is underway and the project is moving forward,” said Mantas Bartuška, CEO of Lietuvos Geležinkeliai (Lithuanian Railways).
The minister said the terminal was a very important hub for both the Lithuanian economy and the entire Rail Baltica project.
The designing of a 100-kilometre section from Kaunas to Vilnius is expected to begin shortly.
“We'd like to start designing the Vilnius-Kaunas spur this year or next year, because it is an integral Rail Baltica link for which we have already secured funding,” Masiulis said.
According to Lietuvos Geležinkeliai, the rail link between the Kaunas Intermodal Terminal and Poland's railway network will make the Lithuanian city a key cargo hub that will handle both European-standard gauge and broad-gauge trains.
“It will be Rail Baltica's largest transshipment hub,” said Karolis Sankovski, the head of Rail Baltica.
In 2015, Lietuvos Geležinkeliai built a new European-standard gauge line from Kaunas to the border with Poland, which cost almost €400 million, but the track needs to be straightened out to increase the maximum train speed to 249 km/h, from the current 120 km/h.