The Anonymous Widower

Latvia, A Disappearing Nation

Thw title of this post is the same as that of this article on Politico.

This is the first two paragraphs.

Atis Sjanits has an unusual remit for an ambassador. The Latvian diplomat is not responsible for relations with another nation — but with his own country’s diaspora.

Sjanits’ job is to respond to the exodus triggered by Latvia’s accession to the EU. Since joining the bloc, nearly a fifth of the nation has left to work in more affluent EU nations: The U.K., Ireland, Germany.

The article gives population statistics for the three countries in Eastern Europe.

In 2000, Latvia’s population stood at 2.38 million. At the start of this year, it was 1.95 million. No other country has had a more precipitous fall in population — 18.2 percent according to U.N. statistics. Only Latvia’s similarly fast-shriveling neighbor, Lithuania, with a 17.5 percent decrease, and Georgia, with a 17.2 percent drop, come close.

Estonia is not mentioned. So could this be, that their advanced digital economy? I’m no expert, but surely if you have a good Internet, it must open up opportunities.

I could say, that the bright and the innovative have always left the Baltic States, as my great-great-great-grandfather, did around 1800! His reasons were also slightly different, as there was a lack of opportunities for Jews in East Prussia.

The article quotes Atis Sjanits as there will not be enough future soldiers or taxpayers to pay for them.

The EU has big plans for a railway called Rail Baltica to eventually link Helsinki and Warsaw, via the three Baltic States.

The railway is to be built to a high standard.

  • 155 mph running.
  • 25 KVAC electrification.
  • ERTMS signalling.
  • No level crossings.
  • Ability to handle freight trains of 1050 metres.

Vladimir Putin does like the fact that the new railway will be standard gauge rather than Russian.

The main reason is to move freight from road to rail, but I can certainly see tourists using the railway to tour the Baltic.

 

December 31, 2018 Posted by | Transport, World | , , | Leave a comment

Finland-Estonia Rail Tunnel Feasibility Study Completed

The title of this post is the same as that of this article in the International Railway Journal.

This is the first two paragraphs.

A feasibility study into the construction of a rail tunnel under the Baltic Sea between the Finnish capital Helsinki and the Estonian capital Tallinn estimates the cost of the project at €13-20bn.

The FinEst Link tunnel would be constructed as two 10m-diameter single bores connected at intervals with an 8m-diameter central service tunnel. The concept includes two artificial islands, and three stations in Helsinki – City Centre, Pasila and Vantaa Airport – and one station at Ülemiste in Tallinn. The tunnel would be standard gauge to connect with the new Rail Baltica high-speed line linking Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland.

The article also goes on to say this about the economics of the tunnel.

While the project has a low cost:benefit ratio of 0.45 due to the high capital cost, its wider economic impact on GDP ranges from €4bn for the low scenario to €6.9bn for the base scenario.

Would the projected cost and economics of the FinEst Tunnel be a rough guide to what would happen if a fixed link were to be built between Scotland and Ireland?

The FinEst Tunnel will be standard gauge to be compatible with Rail Baltica, despite both Finland and Estonia using different railway gauges.

Just like the difference between Great Britain and the island of Ireland.

 

February 9, 2018 Posted by | Transport | , , , | 1 Comment

A Big Step For Rail Baltica

This article on Railway Gazette is entitled Rail Baltica procurement agreement signed.

Rail Baltica is a large  project to create a standard gauge railway from Tallinn in Estonia to Bialiystok in Poland via Riga in Latvia and Kaunus in Lithuania.

One extra part of the plan is to build a rail tunnel between Helsinki and Tallinn, to connect Finland to the European railway network.

This Google Map shows the Gulf of Finland.

The Gulf Of Finland

The Gulf Of Finland

Helsinki and Taillinn are in the West on the North and South coasts respectively, with St. Petersburg in the East.

I would think, that a Taillinn to Helsinki Tunnel, would be feasible, but at probably sixty kilometres it would be the longest undersea tunnel in the world.

Now that the various parties have agreed to proceed, we might see some progress on building the main route from Tailinn to Bialystok, which hopefully will be finished in 2025.

October 12, 2016 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Have You Heard about…the New European Transport Strategy?

That is the title of an article in Georgia Today, which gives a solid overview of the strategy. This is the first two paragraphs of the article.

In 2013, the European Commission, in a EUR 250 billion European strategy which gives priority to the creation of an integrated transport network and seeks to level the imbalance between the Member States of the European Union, proposed the creation of international transport corridors, bringing together Western and Central Eastern Europe. In order to overcome traffic imbalance in the EU, nine multimodal corridors will be created, each of which has to combine at least three types of transport and connect three states.

The new infrastructure policy will unite 28 EU states under trans-European transport network (TEN-T). Nine transport corridors will be provided: Baltic – Adriatic Sea, North Sea – Baltic, the Mediterranean Corridor, Middle Eastern Corridor, Scandinavia – the Mediterranean Sea, the Rhine – Alps, the Atlantic Corridor, the North Sea – the Mediterranean Sea, and the Rhine – Danube. They will be grouped into three general areas of “East – West”, “North – South” and “Diagonal” corridors. The project is scheduled for completion in 2030. The transport corridors will receive priority funding to connect the east and west of the European Union. To finance the first phase of the project, EUR 26 billion was allocated.

I suppose that the Brexiters will say, that all it will do is bring more migrants to the UK.

But, think of the news a couple of days ago, when the Swiss opened the Gotthard Base Tunnel as is reported in this article on the BBC. This tunnel will have passenger trains, but one of it’s main purposes, is to get trucks from the roads through Switzerland, by moving a million tonnes of freight a year onto the trains. The tunnel removes a bottleneck on the Rotterdam-Basel-Genoa corridor, which has been named the Blue Banana by a group of French geographers.

This is the introduction to the Wikipedia entry.

The Blue Banana (French: banane bleue, also known as the European Megalopolis or the Manchester–Milan Axis) is a discontinuous corridor of urbanisation in Western Europe, with a population of around 111 million. The concept was developed in 1989 by RECLUS, a group of French geographers managed by Roger Brunet.

It stretches approximately from North West England across Greater London to the Benelux states and along the German Rhineland, Southern Germany and Switzerland to Northern Italy in the south.

Since when have Greater London and Manchester been in mainland Europe?

I also didn’t realise that I lived in a megalopis of 111 million people.

We are doing our bit to create the freight rail corridor from Manchester to Milan, by improving rail routes between the Channel Tunnel and up the spine of the country to Manchester and eventually to Scotland.

This must bring benefits to the UK in terms of freight and trade.

  • At the Northern end of the route, Liverpool is creating one of the largest container ports in the world.
  • Our car factories can export direct to Europe using massive trains, as I wrote about in What A Lot Of Minis!
  • British Steel’s renowned long products from Scunthorpe can’t be exported easily other than by train.
  • Mediterranean produce can be delivered fresher to the UK.
  • Scottish food and drink will have fast access to the heart of Europe.

And these are just five small examples.

One fifty kilometre tunnel in Switzerland has just made trade for the UK, easier.

Some of the other transport corridors will greatly help Eastern Europe, of which some parts need all the help they can get. The article says this about Rail Baltica.

There is a priority project in the railroad Rail Baltica. The Trans-European railway Rail Baltica, linking Helsinki – Tallinn – Riga – Kaunas – Warsaw and continuing on to Berlin, is to be developed within the territories of the co-operating EU Member States. Rail Baltica will support the wider EU goals of parity of access to services and infrastructure of EU Member States and development of sustainable modes of transportation, improved balance and interoperability between different means of transportation, and the establishment of links with the rest of the EU rail network. Even as far back as the 1990s it was in the works to build an underwater railway tunnel between Tallinn and Helsinki, but the project was delayed due to financial constraints. This corridor also involves the development of river waterways and canals (Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands), as well as ferry traffic (between Finland and Estonia). The project cost is estimated at over EUR 3.6 billion, including 50% from the EU budget (program TEN-T), and 50% from the budget of the project participants. In the Baltic countries there is no such means, and there are discussions about the feasibility of building a high-speed road which will pass by numerous settlements.

I feel very strongly, that good rail and road links through an area, improve its prosperity. If we look at that small project of the Borders Railway, can anybody deny that it has been a success and that it has helped to enhance the place of the Scottish Borders on the UK Tourist Map.

As I write this Radio 5 Live is hosting a discussion on Brexit from Cardiff. Some of the issued raisded include steel and agriculture.

The Welsh may not like it, but an electrified Great Western for freight and passengers, will make South Wales fully part of the Blue Banana, which can only be positive for the Principality.

 

 

 

June 3, 2016 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | 2 Comments

Developing Rail Systems In Eastern Europe

I like travelling in Eastern Europe and so I was pleased to see this article in the International Rail Journal, which is entitled EU funds help to unlock rail’s potential in Eastern Europe.

It gives a long summary of the rail projects in the East, which I think are essential to improve the prosperity of the area.

I’m looking forward to the day, when I fly to Helsinki and take a ferry to Tallinn in Estonia.

From there I will take Rail Baltica through the Baltic States to Warsaw and Berlin, before taking a direct train from the German capital to London.

You might ask, what benefits spending money in Eastern Europe does for the UK other than opening up tourism for those who like travelling on trains?

The roads of Eastern Europe are clogged with trucks bringing exports and imports all across Europe.

One of the aims of these projects is to get freight on rail. As the last time I went on the M25, there seemed to be loads of East European trucks, surely freight trains through the Channel Tunnel will cut the numbers.

The other large aim is to link Eastern Europe better to Western Europe and help loosen the economic ties to Russia.

March 16, 2016 Posted by | Transport | , , , | Leave a comment

China, Russia And The EU’s Intermarium Bloc

The title of this post is the title of this article on the euobserver web site.

It is an interesting read, which talks about how trade routes will develop between Europe, Russia and China.

Incidentally, I found it, because it talks about Rail Baltica, which I think is an important project that could bring benefits to the Baltic States.

March 15, 2016 Posted by | Transport | , , , | Leave a comment

Railways In North East Poland

Look at this Google Map of the Polish town of Goldap, where we stopped for supplies on our holiday.

Goldap

Goldap

Just to the North of the main road, it appears that there is the recognisable scar of a multiple-track railway.

Our Polish guide confirmed that Goldap had a large station with several platforms, and that it is still there.

Until the end of the Second World War, this area was East Prussia and was part of Germany. The railways were connected to the Prussian Eastern Railway, which connected Berlin to the major East Prussian city of Koningsberg. The Prussian Eastern Railway still exists as far as Braniewo on the Polish side of the Border, but there doesn’t appear to be a rail connection onward to Kaliningrad as Koningsberg is now called. This Google Map shows the area from Braniewo in Poland to Mamonova in Russia.

Braniewo To Mamonova

Braniewo To Mamonova

The white line across the map is the border.

You can pick out the old railway from Braniewo to Mamonova.

If we lived in a sane and reasonable world, which I’m afraid that President Putin doesn’t, it would appear that some form of direct rail connection could be created, which would connect Russia and the Baltic States to Poland.

There is the problem of gauge as like Spain, Ireland and India, Russian railways don’t use the same gauge as everybody else. At one time the platforms in Kaliningrad-Passazhirsky station, were arranged so that those facing Poland were standard gauge and the others were Russian gauge.

As a train enthusiast, wouldn’t it be nice to travel from Berlin to Kaliningrad by luxury train, spend some hours in the city, before taking a train on to St. Petersburg.

It would sadly appear that Putin doesn’t have the commercial nous to run the Russian equivalent of a whelk stall.

It is a long term ambition of the European Union to connect the Baltic States and Finland to the rest of the European Union by rail, they have funded the creation of Rail Baltica. This map shows the route.

Rail Baltica

Rail Baltica

 

The objectives are broadly as follows.

  • Build a 200 kph double-track standard gauge railway all the way.
  • By-pass Russia and Belarus.
  • Put a lot of the extensive freight traffic in the area on the railway rather than the roads.

The overall aim is to finish by 2025, although rumours persist that the section from Warsaw to Kaunas in Lithuania could open this year.

An interesting take on the project is given by this article on the Latvia Public Broadcasting web site, which is entitled Rail Baltica hits buffers at Polish border. This is said.

Even though Poland has allotted €16 billion to modernizing its railroads by 2023, not a single zloty has been earmarked to be spent on developing the connection to Rail Baltica at the Polish side of the border with Lithuania. Without this 200-kilometer section, the planned high-speed European gauge rail from Tallinn through Rīga through Kaunas won’t be connected with the rest of Europe, reported LSM’s Russian-language site on Friday.

It does appear that the section between Bialystok and Trakiszki isn’t up to scratch.

There is an interesting take on Rail Baltica in this article on a blog, which is entitled Rail Baltica Project Directed against Russia’s Security, Pavlovsky Says. This is said.

The Rail Baltica project, eventually intended to link Berlin with Helsinki via Poland and the three Baltic countries is “extremely doubtful from an economic point of view” but has obvious security implications for the region and Russia’s interests there, according to Moscow commentator Igor Pavlovsky.

            The project, which will allow trains to pass from one end of the line to the other without changing from Western to Russian gage track, may never carry as many passengers or as much freight as its boosters claim, he writes on Regnum.ru; but it can carry troops and materiel from the West to the border of Russia.

Ever since I first heard of Rail Baltica, I’ve been rather surprised on the silence from Putin and his merry thugs!

 

 

 

 

January 30, 2016 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | Leave a comment