The decision of the EU transport ministers that all EU member states should develop a plan for the transition to the 1435 mm railway gauge by 2025-2026 continues to meet resistance in the Baltic countries. The newly appointed Minister of Transport of Latvia, Janis Vitenbergs, explained that the transition could not take place without EU co-financing and that the time had not yet come for a complete abandonment of the 1520 mm gauge. Railway Supply magazine writes about this with reference to RailFreight.


Last summer, the European Commission proposed that all new rail connections to be built within the European Transport Network (TEN-T) should comply with the European standard gauge. A few months later, on December 5th, the meeting of EU transport ministers decided that each member state of the European Union must have a conversion plan for the transition to a 1435 mm railway gauge by 2025-2026.

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Latvia reacted to the deadline by saying it would need EU assistance. Former Minister of Transport of Latvia Talis Linkaits emphasized the role of the TEN-T project in ensuring proper investment in the missing sections of the network, but emphasized the importance of obtaining assistance from other Member States.

The Baltic countries mainly use broad gauge lines. This type of rail infrastructure has existed since the days of the Soviet Union and has been used since then, as trade routes and links between the Baltic countries and Belarus and Russia continued to account for probably the largest part of the region’s economy.

Even if the country fully switches to the European gauge, the elimination of the old broad gauge lines will be unacceptable, at least for the moment. Witenbergs convincingly explained why: “It is too early to talk about abandoning the old lines, because Ukraine has the same gauge. I believe that the war in Ukraine will end and we can play an important role in the reconstruction of the country. Our seaports and railroad can be used to transport building materials and many other goods to Ukraine.”

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