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These 3 European Countries Will Soon Be Linked To The Rest Of Europe Via High-Speed Rail

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Rail Baltica project modernizing railroad infrastructurePhoto credit: Viesturs Jugs / Shutterstock.com

Traveling from Europe to the Baltic states (and back) will be much easier in the coming years! Rail Baltica, now underway, will be a turning point in European and Baltic rail travel. The 5.8 billion euro (about $5.8 billion USD) project will connect the three Baltic States (Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania) with Finland and Poland, bringing the countries closer to each other and closer to Europe. It will be the missing link in European transit networks, fully integrating the Baltic States with other European countries.

Where Will Rail Baltica Take Me?

The project’s purpose is to provide a high-speed rail connection that will link the capital cities of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania to the rest of Europe by way of Warsaw, the Polish capital. The 870-kilometer (540-mile) railway will begin in Tallinn and pass through Pärnu, Rīga, Panevėžys, and Kaunas before reaching the Lithuanian-Polish border. There will also be a connection to Vilnius from Kaunas. Once finished, Rail Baltica will connect several key cities, including Rotterdam, Berlin, and Warsaw.

When Will Rail Baltica Be Passenger-Ready?

The Baltic region’s largest infrastructure project in about a century is now officially underway, with multiple parts of the new Rail Baltica high-speed rail line now under construction. The project is expected to be done sometime in 2026.

How Fast Can Rail Baltica Get Me Where I Want To Go? 

Rail Baltica’s proposed passenger trains are designed to operate at top speeds of 234 km/h (about 145 mph) and provide seamless connections with the rest of the EU. Once completed, the line will form the latest addition to the EU’s North Sea-Baltic Corridor, a trans-European route including key cities such as Rotterdam, Berlin, and Warsaw.

For passengers, there will be regular connections with at least one international train service every 2 hours, resulting in eight train pairs daily in each direction. Here’s an example of how fast the connections are: It currently takes 7 hours to drive from Lithuania’s capital to Estonia’s; the new line will almost halve that to just 3 hours and 38 minutes.

Rail Baltica Is More Than A Typical Upgrade

In addition to making passenger journeys quicker, the project will also lower freight costs and offer a time-efficient way of transporting mass cargo. The current rail track was built using a Russian standard-width gauge (the Soviet Union occupied the Baltic countries during the last century). While the Baltics are now independent, the railroad tracks are still incompatible with European standards, forcing these nations to rely on Russia for much of their trade and goods transported by rail.

Rail transport from the Baltics into and out of Europe has remained limited since passengers and cargo need to be offloaded and then reloaded onto different trains at the Polish border to continue their journey. An inter-Baltic rail plan to correct the bottleneck has been discussed since the countries gained their independence in the 1990s.

The Rail Baltica project is symbolic as well as physical. For the EU, it’s a statement about the Baltic states’ return to Europe and their decoupling from their Soviet past.

Start planning your trip to Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania now! Work in visits to a couple of European cities connected by Rail Baltica. The new line will make your choices easier, especially since rail services will be faster and more convenient!

Want some ideas for visiting the cities that will be connected by Rail Baltica? See these articles for more information:

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