STANDARD-gauge freight trains have begun serving Kaunas Intermodal Terminal (KIT) in Lithuania following the completion of the Kaunas - Palemonas section of the Rail Baltica line, with the first service arriving from the Netherlands.

The Kaunas - Palemonas section included the modernisation of the Kaunas railway tunnel and construction of four tunnels to allow cars and pedestrians to cross the line.

A 2km dual 1435/1520mm-gauge line was built in the Kaunas tunnel while 3.6km of 1520mm-gauge track was reconstructed and 9km of new 1435mm-gauge track was laid.

“The opening of KIT for commercial traffic is an essential step in the Rail Baltica project in the transition from construction to transport operations,” says Mr Marius Skuodis, Lithuania’s minister for transport and communications.

The first train, which arrived on July 19, was welcomed by Skuodis, prime minister, Ms Ingrida Šimonytė, and other guests.

“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 Mr Mantas Bartuška, LTG chief executive officer.  Bartuška.

EU Structural Funds provided 85% of funding for the project. Bartuška pointed out that the European Union has set a target for all freight travelling more than 300km to be carried by rail or ship, with road covering the last mile and he hopes the new line will help to transition freight from road to across the Polish and Lithuanian borders where currently 24 million tonnes of freight are moved by road.