Kaunas Intermodal Terminal has been opened to commercial traffic on the Rail Baltica railway
Today, on July 19, the first train from the Netherlands loaded with containers and semi-trailers, which arrived at the terminal by the European standard-gauge railway was met at Kaunas Intermodal Terminal (KIT). Therefore, KIT has become the most easternmost point of the European railway system, which, after the completion of all works and formalities on the Rail Baltica railway section Kaunas-Palemonas, can be reached by European standard rolling stock.
"The opening of the Kaunas intermodal terminal for commercial traffic is essential step in the Rail Baltica project in the transition from construction to transport operations. At the same time, this step will significantly improve the connections with Europe for freight carriers and expand the opportunities for sustainable transport in the Baltic region", – Marius Skuodis, the Minister for Transport and Communications, said at the official ceremony of welcoming the first train on the European track.
The official welcoming ceremony of the first train at KIT was attended by the Prime Minister Ingrida Šimonytė, the Minister for Transport and Communications Marius Skuodis, as well as representatives of the institutions and organizations implementing the Rail Baltica project, partners and other guests of honour.
LTG Chief Executive Officer Mantas Bartuška emphasized that the connection of the KIT terminal with the European-gauge railway is not only an economic achievement for Lithuania, but also another element in the consistent implementation of the Green Deal objectives.
"Rail traffic has been recognized as one of the most environmentally friendly means of transport. The EU has officially stated that in order to reduce CO2 emissions, freight must be transported by train or ship over a distance of more than 300 km, and road vehicles should function as the 'last mile' transport. The connection of the European-gauge railway to the KIT opens up additional opportunities for the development of ecological railway transport, thus reducing the CO2 emissions of trailers and freeing up motorways," says M. Bartuška.
The development of commercial transport by Rail Baltica is not only an economic but also an environmental benefit, as the development of commercial transport by rail and the gradual transition to a sustainable circular economy will significantly reduce environmental pollution making it a contribution to the EU's Green Deal strategy.
According to Karolis Sankovskis, Chief Executive Officer of LTG Infra, a company in charge of the implementation of the construction works for the Rail Baltica project in Lithuania, the construction of the European track to KIT is not only a new opportunity for the terminal and businesses, but also an important stage in the implementation of the Rail Baltica project.
"We have been working for several years for the first freight train to arrive at KIT today on the EU standard tracks. I will certainly not exaggerate to say that reconstruction of the Kaunas railway node and its adaptation to the needs of Rail Baltica was one of the most complex recent railway infrastructure projects in Lithuania," said K. Sankovski.
According to the head of LTG Infra, it is important that the project of such complexity was implemented despite not only the engineering and technical challenges, but also the constraints caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. "I am pleased with the professionalism of colleagues. Undoubtedly the experience gained with this project will facilitate further construction of the Rail Baltica in line with the commitments. I strongly call for active participation for the entrepreneurs of Lithuania as well as the rest of the Baltic region and abroad in public tenders that have a strong tendency to increase in number," said K.Sankovski
He noted that this project is 85% funded by the EU Structural Funds. The continued support of the EU institutions for the project shows that Rail Baltica is more than a railway infrastructure - it is an economic corridor that promotes regional connections.
"The opening of the commercial route on European standard gauge railway will allow to capitalize on the section between the Polish-Lithuanian border and start initial freight shipments even before the full Rail Baltica Global Project infrastructure is developed. This will allow us to start developing the initial business case for the long-term development of freight logistics along the full Rail Baltica corridor," said Agnis Driksna, Chief Executive Officer and Chairperson of the Management Board of RB Rail AS, the joint venture of the Rail Baltica. "This is an important day for the Baltic states and a concrete proof of the achievements possible under the EU's Connecting Europe Facility".
Spring of 2019 was the starting point for modernization of the Kaunas Railway Node to adjust it to the needs of the Rail Baltica and ensure compliance with the Global Project technical and operations parameters. During the modernization project, a European standard railway was built through Kaunas to Palemonas, the historic Kaunas railway tunnel was modernized, four tunnels were installed, where cars and pedestrians could cross the railway safely, the city infrastructure next to the railway was arranged, and additional noise protection measures were installed.
A 2 km dual 1435/1520 mm gauge railway track was built in the Kaunas railway tunnel and its entrances. 3.6 km existing 1520 mm gauge track was reconstructed, and 9 km of new 1435 mm gauge track was built.
"KIT is becoming an important gateway to Europe, opening up new opportunities for combined freight transport - freight can be reloaded from wide gauge to European and vice versa, as well as from trailers to rail and vice versa," said K. Sankovski, CEO of LTG Infra.
According to him, one of the most important features of KIT is that the terminal is prepared to load not only containers or other types of freight, but also truck trailers. Every year, 24 million tons of freight are transported by road via Polish-Lithuanian border. It is a huge potential for the use of KIT and EU-gauge resulting in increased traffic safety and lower emissions.
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