After Decades of Disconnection, These 3 Countries Will Join the European Rail System

Rail Baltica will be a reality by 2026

Latvia, Riga, railway bridge and TV Tower at the Daugava River in the evening
Westend61 / Getty Images

The high-speed rail systems of Europe are one of the continent’s most outstanding achievements. Transiting between countries is fast, comfortable, and convenient, and finally, after decades of disconnection, Baltic nations will soon be joining the European rail system.

This year, construction on Rail Baltica began; ultimately connecting Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania to the rest of Europe. The ambitious $5.8 billion project, with an expected completion date in 2026, will stretch for 540 miles connecting the capital cities of Tallinn, Riga, Vilnius, and Warsaw. From Warsaw, travelers can connect to trains that go elsewhere in Europe. The high-speed trains will have top speeds of around 145 miles per hour and will cut travel times between some cities in half.

According to reporting by EuroNews, a project like Rail Baltica has been considered since the late 1990s, but the recent Russian invasion of Ukraine spurred governments into action. “It is particularly important to ensure reliable connectivity with Western Europe and to fully use the new rail transport connection with Europe to increase our country’s defence [sic] capabilities,” said Tālis Linkaits, the Latvian Transport Minister, in August.

Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania have been separated from European rail systems because of Soviet Occupation. When Baltic rail lines were first built during the Soviet era, they matched Russian gauge standards incompatible with those used in the rest of Europe. Because of this, even after Baltic nations gained their independence, they relied on Russia for trade. The incompatibility also limited rail transport in and out of Europe. But in just four years, visiting Baltic countries will be fast and easy.

Article Sources
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  1. Travel Pulse. "New High-Speed Railway To Link Baltics To the Rest of Europe." Sept. 18, 2022.

  2. Euro News. "The High-speed Railway That’s Uncoupling the Baltic States From Russia and Their Soviet Past." Sept. 19, 2022.

  3. Rail Baltica. "Rail Baltica attracts military mobility funding." Aug. 8, 2022.