Nearly two decades after its suspension, passenger rail service between the Lithuanian and Latvian capitals was officially restored Wednesday as a train operated by Lithuanian Railways subsidiary LTG Link departed Vilnius for Riga.
Many surely still remember the Chaika that rumbled between Tallinn and Minsk, and prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, a train still connected Kyiv to Riga, but daily scheduled passenger rail service between Vilnius and Riga has long since been awaited and much needed.
The Polish-built Pesa 730 ML that will serve the route is in widespread use in Lithuania. Service between the two neighboring Baltic' countries capitals will run via Jelgava, with the trip taking just over four hours; the same trip by car isn't any faster.
The Lithuanian train seats 142, and a regular-class ticket costs €24, operating on Latvian territory on commercial grounds. In comparison, a ticket from Tallinn to Valga via Estonian passenger rail operator Elron – whose services are subsidized by the state – will run you more than €20.
"The train is especially necessary for those who don't have their own transport," said one passenger in Joniškis. "And now you don't have to think about parking when traveling to the big city either. So this is a very good solution."
There is a significant amount of travel between Riga and Vilnius; airBaltic alone operates nearly 40 flights a week between the two capitals.
Lithuanian Minister of Transport and Communications Marius Skuodis believes Latvia should operate its own train on the route as well, which already looks to prove quite popular; several departures around New Year's Eve and New Year's Day are already sold out.
Should direct rail service between Riga and Tallinn in turn be restored by Latvia and Estonia as well, Lithuania is prepared to coordinate its own train schedule accordingly.
"Estonians certainly want the train to connect all the way to Tallinn," Skuodis said at Vilnius Railway Station on Wednesday. "So all three countries have to take the next steps as well. It would be much more convenient to [take the train] not only to Riga, but also on from there as well."
Lithuania needs its own passenger rail link with Daugavpils as well, he added.
With the return of this rail link, one could say that Rail Baltica has been forged in part in advance of the actual Rail Baltica, as Vilnius has its own rail connections to Warsaw and other points in Poland, and passengers make good use of them.
Editor: Aili Vahtla