Back in January a post on the TrainTracks.eu blog by Sebastian Wilken caught my eye – the post rated how easy it was to get to the three European Capitals of Culture this year (Esch ??, Novi Sad ?? and Kaunas ??) by train. I can confirm the trip to Novi Sad is complex – I tried that last year.
But why is Kaunas so bad?
Not least as Rail Baltica is due to connect all three Baltic states to the rest of the EU with a standard gauge railway, and one part exists already – the standard gauge line from Poland extends as far as – you guessed it – Kaunas in Lithuania. Seat61 explains how it used to work here.
Standard gauge tracks exist, and they were extended as far as Kaunas recently as part of the pre-Rail Baltica works – funded by the EU.
Kaunas is European Capital of Culture 2022 – funded by the EU.
2021 was European Year of Rail, and the Connecting Europe Express even went to Kaunas – funded by the EU.
But no regular passenger can at the moment take a train from Poland to Kaunas, as services are suspended. The situation at the border between Lithuania and Latvia is just as bad – there are no cross border services there either.
So I contacted Sebastian from TrainTracks.eu and also brought railway activist Moritz Krähe into the discussion, and the idea was born to write an open letter to political decision makers and railway executives demanding the re-instatement of international trains to and from Kaunas.
The Open Letter can be found on this micro-site in English, German, Polish, Lithuanian and Latvian, and there is a FAQ about how it would work operationally as well. Authors, bloggers, passenger organisations and civil society groups have come together to sign the letter.
Part of the idea of the European Year of Rail was to argue for more coherency and more cross-border thinking in EU-wide rail policy and here is a city in Lithuania that is European Capital of Culture (EU funded!) that cannot be reached by train from either Poland or Latvia. And re-instating cross border links would not even be operationally complicated.
So read the letter, share it, and fingers crossed we can all take a train to Kaunas sometime later in 2022!