Route alternative approved for the future construction of the Rail Baltica railway from Kaunas to the border with Poland

After active discussions and talks with representatives of municipalities and the public, the Ministry of Transport and Communications approved the optimal route alternative of the Rail Baltica railway from Kaunas (Jiesia) to the Lithuanian-Polish border. Taking into account the opinion of the majority of the residents, the shortest option the most remote from the urban areas – alternative 6A – has been chosen.

“A very important phase of the Rail Baltica project has been completed, in which both city and district municipalities and communities have been actively involved. Discussions with members of the public directly affected by the newly built railway will continue in the next stages of spatial planning,” said Loreta Maskaliovienė, Deputy Minister of Transport and Communications. “I have no doubt that high-speed rail to Poland will not only increase the travel opportunities of the residents, but also encourage closer business ties between the neighboring countries, significantly improve the military mobility of our country and the region as a whole and, of course, contribute to environmentally friendly transport,” Maskaliovienė added.

The optimal route of Rail Baltica between Kaunas and the border with Poland was chosen to be alternative 6A, according to which a new 1,435 mm railway track is planned to be built in a place where there was no railway track altogether. The main railway line will bypass the city of Marijampolė, move away from the city of Kazlų Rūda, and will not encroach on Kalvarija. Regional stations are planned in Marijampolė and Šeštokai, which will be connected to the main railway line by regional connections.

The journey from Jiesia to the border with Poland is expected to take up to 19 minutes. Upon completion of construction of Rail Baltica, the journey from Kaunas to Warsaw will take 3.5 hours, and reaching the Polish capital from Vilnius will only take a little more than 4 hours.

“The currently operating European-gauge railway from the Polish border to the Kaunas Intermodal Terminal will continue to be used. Generally speaking, it is actually becoming even more important, as freight traffic between Lithuania and Western Europe on this railway has been increasingly intensifying. In addition, this section remains particularly relevant in military mobility. For example, it will continue to be used to provide communication with the Kazlų Rūda training area. “In order to be able to operate this track at full capacity, it is planned to apply for funding in the near future for a traffic management system that would significantly increase the number of trains that can pass, both to meet the growing demand for freight and to allow faster passenger traffic to Warsaw,” said Arenijus Jackus, Rail Baltica Coordination Manager at LTG Infra.

The organizers of the Rail Baltica project – joint venture partners Sweco Lietuva UAB (responsible partner) and DB Engineering & Consulting GmbH – in March presented to the public four alternative routes for the Rail Baltica railway between Kaunas (Jiesia) and the Lithuanian and Polish border. All of them were submitted for public consideration following a strategic environmental impact assessment, which analyzed not only environmental but also social and economic factors. The project promoters also carried out an evaluation of all alternatives according to the established criteria and a cost-benefit analysis. 

Considering the Rail Baltica global project perspective and commitment to promote the maximization of overall long-term socio-economic benefits of Rail Baltica as a truly cross-border project, RB Rail AS strongly supports this strategic decision and recognize the added value that this decision will create: 

  • The chosen alternative allows shorter travel times for all major destinations for passengers and freight train services, and the shorter length of railway track. These parameters allow to combine optimum attractivity of Rail Baltica for travelers and minimise the operation and maintenance cost of the infrastructure.  
  • Chosen alternative also allows for deliver the necessary capacity for freight trains along the Rail Baltica economic corridor, serving the economy and the citizens of Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, and Finland. 
  • The smart combination of the Rail Baltica railway with the currently operating single European-gauge railway from the Polish border to Kaunas will allow providing a faster connection to Kaunas for Marijampole region residents (Šeštokai, Kalvarija, Alytus and other), while keeping the connectivity of all intermediate stations on-axis Kaunas – Kazlu Rūda – Marijampole, ensuring optimal daily commuting conditions. 
  • Faster connection via alternative 6A will bring the whole Marijampolė region (Šeštokai, Kalvarija, Alytus, and others) closer to other regions, especially Kaunas, Vilnius, Panevėžys, and Šiauliai, as well as cross-border northbound. 
  • The conclusions on the recommended alternative are in line also with the outputs of the Upgrade feasibility study for the section “Polish/Lithuanian state border–Kaunas–RRT Palemonas”, completed in 2018, and with the ongoing study “Kaunas Node 1435/1520 mm Operation Expertise Services”. Both studies aimed to define the conditions for optimum railway services in the Kaunas and South-West of Lithuania region. 

Following this decision, the Rail Baltica joint venture RB Rail AS plans to launch the detailed technical design procurement for this section already in the coming month.  

Following the adoption of the alternative 6A, its solutions will be further detailed to take into account the residents’ suggestions, as long as it does not infringe the public interest and publicity procedures, and allows the parameters set out in the Rail Baltica design guidelines to be maintained.

At the stage of concrete solutions, specific land plots will be formed, where it is planned to build the Rail Baltica railway line, which is expected to be made public in the third quarter of 2022. Owners and users on whose plots of land or neighboring properties the Rail Baltica section is planned to run will receive notifications by registered mail. This will also be announced in the media.

Rail Baltica is the largest railway infrastructure project in the history of the Baltic States, which will build a fully electrified double-track European gauge railway connecting Warsaw, Kaunas, and Vilnius, Panevėžys, Riga, Pärnu, and Tallinn. The total length of Rail Baltica in the Baltic States is 870 km, with 392 km in Lithuania, 265 km in Latvia, and 213 km in Estonia.

Frequently asked questions and answers about the planning of the Rail Baltica project territories, the acquisition and compensation of the land and real estate required for the project are available here.