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Rail Baltica - 1435mm or 1520mm Gauge? (by Toms Purgailis)

Publicēja 2010. gada 26. dec. 06:42Reinis Bērziņš   [ atjaunināts 2010. gada 29. dec. 05:59 ]

The idea of connecting the Baltic rail system to the rest of Europe is circulating already for a decade. So far the main problem was considered gauge differences between Poland (1435mm) and the Baltic states (1520mm) and - at least politicians – see the idea of building a 1435mm gauge from the border of Poland further to the north reasonable. In European Parliament election 2009 just one political party did put a single phrase about Rail Baltica project in their program: ‘We are supporting this project because it will allow reaching Berlin within 10 hours from Riga by train’. I voted for them although I knew that an aircraft reaches Berlin in 1hour and 35minutes and their statement just proved that Rail Baltic - as presented so far - is not a runner.

Rail Range – 3.5 Hours

Projects in Europe show that most passengers prefer train rather than plane if travel time on train is no longer than 3 – 3.5h. The current record of system-wide average speed 279.4 km/h is set by French TGV. If we suppose that a new system with average speed of 280 km/h is built the maximum travel range of 980km is set. The further city reachable from Tallinn would be Warsaw (air service dropped in 2008); from Riga – Poznan (no direct service); from Kaunas and Vilnius – Berlin (no direct service, just connections at RIX, CPH, WAW).
Building the Earth's best standard gauge high-speed rail line trough Poland and the Baltic states would result in attracting passengers from Warsaw to Vilnius, Kaunas, Riga and Tallinn - whith all currently have a poor air service and few daily (2 to 3) coach service. Berlin - one of the busiest air routes out of RIX – would see no impact. More real average speed v=180 km/h would give feasible connections just from Warsaw to Kaunas and Riga. I strongly doubt Baltic States need such multi-billion project to ease connection in very limited city pairs in North – South axis. Read more>> 

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