Lithuanian container train, source: Lietuvos geležinkeliai

Lithuania wants to be transit hub between Central Asia and EU

After the success of the Kaliningrad multimodal route from China to Europe, neighbouring Lithuania intends to do same the same with one difference: the Baltic country is willing to focus on Central Asia, especially land-locked Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, and become a transit hub for freight transportation from these states to the European Union.

The Lithuanian interest is caused by the country’s search for transit cargoes to be handled via its railways and Klaipeda seaport. As a result, the proposed multimodal route includes two components: railway and seaport. “The capability of cooperation with Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan is used inefficiently, therefore, we are looking for mutually beneficial areas where we could strengthen bilateral cooperation.

Lithuania has enough capacities to ensure the smooth transit of freight from Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan via Lithuania. We see the opportunities to strengthen economic, trade and logistics links in the future”, said Vladislavas Kondratavičius, Deputy Minister of Transport and Communications of Lithuania during his recent visit to Central Asia.

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Intermodal routes of Lithuanian Railways, source: Lithuanian Railways
Intermodal routes of Lithuanian Railways, source: Lithuanian Railways

Gateway for Uzbekistan

Since Lithuania is operating the direct and regular rail freight connection to Kazakhstan (branded as Baltic Wind container train), it investigates the opportunities to attract cargoes from the neighbouring Central Asia country.

“For Uzbekistan that seeks to carry freight to Europe, Lithuania can become a gateway to the west. The handling and storage capacities of Klaipeda seaport and Lithuanian Railways may open up opportunities for Uzbekistan to increase cargo traffic to Europe via Lithuania”, proposed Vladislavas Kondratavičius to its Uzbek counterparts. The direct rail service from Uzbekistan to Lithuania could be coupled with the existing links to/from Kazakhstan. However, the parties should discuss transportation rates.

Sun Train to China

Some would say the Lithuanian initiative is just an offer that remains on paper only. Notwithstanding, the Baltic country has successful rail freight links heading the east. In October 2011 the Sun Train was launched between China and Lithuania. Initially, it connected the Chinese city of Chongqing with Klaipeda running via Kazakhstan, Russia and Belarus. Later, the rail service was extended to the Belgian port of Antwerpen going through Poland and Germany.

Author: Mykola Zasiadko

Mykola Zasiadko is editor of online trade magazines RailTech.com and RailFreight.com.

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