Ukraine joins Lithuanian Free Rail programme
Ukrainian Railways agree to cooperate with Lithuanian Railways (LTG) to join the Free Rail programme initiated by LTG. This Free Rail program will connect the Baltic region with a standardised railway network, ranging from technical compatibility, legal issues to IT solutions.
This is confirmed through a memorandum signed by two parties in Munich on 9 May. Egidijus Lazauskas, the CEO of LTG invited other countries in the Baltic region to join this initiative.
Free Rail programme
The programme, known as the Free Rail, is designed for the period until 2030 and aims to strengthen business ties among the Baltic countries and Ukraine. This rail programme focuses on countries that use the broad gauge (1,520 mm) and aims to create better integration within the overall European rail network. However, it is still unclear how many other states have joined this programme. The integration of this Free Rail programme with the existing Rail Baltica and TEN-T project is still pending for future probe.
The Rail Baltica project is to deliver a high-speed line that will connect Warsaw, Kaunas, Vilnius, Panevėžys, Riga, Tallinn and Pärnu. The length of the network will be 870 km: 392 km in Lithuania, 265 km in Latvia and 213 km in Estonia.
Currently, Rail Baltica has started the construction of a rail bridge over the Neris river, in Lithuania. When finished, it will be the longest railway bridge in the Baltic States. The project will cost around 64 million euros.
The Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T) is a network of roads, railways, inland waterways, airports, and seaports designed to improve transport infrastructure and connectivity across the European Union. The network was established in 1996 and has been updated and expanded since, with the current policy and corresponding map with lines dating from 2013. Due for an update, the European Commission made an initial legislative proposal for a revised regulation in December 2021, with changes addressing missing links, and to support the transition to a cleaner, greener and smarter mobility. Also, the changed geopolitical situation due to Russia’s invasion in Ukraine leaves its mark, leading the European Commission to amend its proposal in July 2022.
Current TEN-T projects range from Rail Baltica, connecting Helsinki and Warsaw, to Brenner Base Tunnel, linking Austria and Italy, or the Lisbon–Madrid high-speed rail line.
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