Setting the route is one of the first significant tasks for the implementation of the future railway infrastructure. It is a complex process involving the work of spatial planning, public hearings and consultations with local municipalities in all three countries. The main aim of the process is to set the route according to the project’s global definition and in order to meet the technical parameters as well as to consider the lowest impact of the infrastructure on the communities affected and the environment. Undoubtedly, at the same time, the planning process is a great opportunity to analyse and specify the potential secondary economic benefits for the regions connected by the Rail Baltica railway.
The route approval process moves at a different pace in each country. In Estonia, where the public hearing process has already been concluded in some counties, the formal process of the route approval is expected to finish in the second quarter of this year.
The Rail Baltica railway route has been fully determined in Latvia from the Estonia/Latvia state border near Ainaži up to the Latvia/Lithuania state border near Bauska. It was approved by the Latvian Government in August 2016.
In Lithuania, the route has finally been set from Kaunas to the Latvia/Lithuania border via Panevezys. The Government approved it on 11th of January, 2017.
Regarding the constructed section from Kaunas south to the Lithuania/Poland border, the upgrade feasibility study is commissioned by “RB Rail” to analyse the feasibility of, and measures required to, upgrade the existing 1435 mm gauge railway line from the Polish / Lithuanian state border to Kaunas and Palemonas RRT to achieve full compliance with the Rail Baltica Global project definition specified in the “RB Rail AS” Shareholders’ Agreement and other key technical parameters (Global Project Standards) by analysing the relevant options and providing the optimum solution for ERTMS deployment. Therefore, the route in this section is a subject to the results of the upgrade feasibility study to be completed in the autumn of 2017.
The alignment of the Kaunas – Vilnius connection is planned to be defined by 2020, but the construction of this part of the railway will be phased so that the entire Rail Baltica project would not be delayed or stopped.