Rail freight


RIA & DIT Exports Webinar – Rail Baltica, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania

The Railway Industry Association (RIA), in partnership with the Department for International Trade (DIT), held the second instalment of its Export Outreach webinar series on Tuesday (May 12th), which provided a forum for the UK rail industry to hear from different European markets.

The second webinar saw delegates hear from a member of the Rail Baltica Project, as well as other representatives from leading railway organisations in Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. Delegates were also presented with a range of opportunities available to the UK rail sector companies.

“Rail Baltica is vital for the region… something that all three [Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania] Governments are supportive of and it has full support from the European Commission,” began Mark Loader, the Chief Program Management Officer of Rail Baltica. 

The rail project is aiming to integrate the Baltic States in the European rail network. The project includes five European Union countries – Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and indirectly also Finland, and will connect Helsinki, Tallinn, Pärnu, Rīga, Panevežys, Kaunas, Vilnius, Warsaw to the European rail network.

Loader said that the project was well underway in all three states and continued to deliver an overview of the project construction timeline, starting in 2019 and aiming to end in 2026. The first section of the timeline is focused on Alignment Infrastructure. Detailed technical design of the main line has been running from 2019 and will be followed by the procurement of construction services and construction works.

Loader also introduced the next stage, Fixed Objects, which makes up the second segment of the project, which includes features like stations, depots, and maintenance facilities. Again, this section of the timeline is divided into the preliminary design, procurement, and the design and build stage.

This was followed by the Rail Systems stage, which Rail Baltica have just started developing, with the aim of proceed to the procurement and installation stage in the next few years.

The final stage of the project, the Testing Stage, aims to start from mid-2023 with the aim to open the line by the end of 2026. Loader highlighted that the European Commission have stated that ‘infrastructure projects like Rail Baltica are important elements in helping economic development in post Covid-19 environment and the plan is to carry on investing into infrastructure like this’. EU funding is up to 85% of the project with the rest funded by the national governments of the Baltic States.

Loader was followed by Maia Sokk, Innovation Manager for Estonian Railways Ltd, a state-owned company which manages the country’s rail system. Sokk explained that the strategy for Estonian Railways for 2019-2024 is split into four sections: Infrastructure, Training/ Development, Customers, and Internal Processes, and that every project is linked to one of these pillars.

Sokk began by introducing the freight company in Estonia called Operail which operate in four main business areas: freight transportation, rolling stock repair, maintenance, and modernisation & rolling stock rental. Operail have future projects that include transport optimisation, multimodal freight terminals and locomotive fleet projects and they welcome UK business getting involved.

Sokk also introduced the passenger operator  Elron and the infrastructure company Edelaraudtee and Sokk concluded by talking about the modernisation of signalling systems, the implementation of new timetabling and traffic control and management systems for Estonian Railways – all of which UK rail businesses are encouraged to engage with. Other key projects in Estonia include the electrification of the railway by 2028 and modernisation of railroad crossings by the end of 2024.

Gundars Ābols, from Latvian Railways, continued the discussion by giving a background of the state-owned company which is divided into smaller companies which oversee different functions of the network including rolling stock, logistics, freight and infrastructure. The Latvian rail system is well connected to other countries like CIS and as well as to Asia. Ābols highlighted the current key project for Latvia is the Rail Baltica project and that there are many opportunities for UK business to get involved in from the consulting stage, through to the construction and finally the testing stages.

The discussion ended with an overview from Andrius Žilėnas from Lithuanian Railways and Mantas Kaušylas from Lietuvos geležinkelių infrastruktūra, AB (Lithuanian Railway Infrastructure, LGI), which is responsible for all, including 1520 mm and Rail Baltica 1435 mm gauge railway, network infrastructure, safety, modernisation, and development in Lithuania.

Žilėnas started his talk by introducing the Lithuanian Rail Strategy 2030 which aims to increase freight and passenger capacity as well as revenue. He stated that they plan to achieve these goals by increasing efficiency, building a safe, reliable, and fast infrastructure network and becoming passengers’ first choice. Žilėnas also stressed that there is a 7-billion-euro investment and that there are a vast number of projects both ongoing and in the future for UK companies to get involved in.

If you wish to connect with the DIT rail advisers in the region please contact:

  • Ringaile Saviciene, DIT Lithuania: Ringaile.saviciene@fco.gov.uk;
  • Kristi Ramsden, DIT Estonia, Kristi.Ramsden@fco.gov.uk; and
  • Aldis Celms, DIT Latvia, Email celms@fco.gov.uk

 The Export Outreach Webinar Mini-Series is organised by the Railway Industry Association (RIA), in partnership with the Department for International Trade. For the final webinar in the series, register here.

READ MORE: RIA & DIT Exports Webinar – Spain, Portugal, Switzerland and Austria


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