Two new high-speed lines (HSL) to the Baltic States region were proposed here earlier: Berlin – Riga, and Warsaw – Kaunas – Riga. The old main line between Poznań and Sovetsk could be upgraded to form a third high-speed route, about 500 km long.
The proposal is to upgrade existing lines between Poznań and Sovetsk, to the standards of the German Ausbaustrecken, and add some new sections. The route is the former German main line, from Berlin to the German Memelland, via the historical territory of East Prussia. It was originally entirely inside the Reich, and Poznań and Sovetsk were then Posen and Tilsit, but it was cut by Polish territory after the First World War. The route is now entirely outside Germany, in Poland and the Russian exclave Kaliningrad Oblast. Sovetsk is now on the border with Lithuania, which annexed the Memelland in 1923.
Isolated Ostpreussen, 1926…
Most of the Poznań – Sovetsk line was opened in 1871-1873. The 290-km section from Toruń (Thorn) to Chernyakhovsk (Insterburg) built as part of Preussische Ostbahn network. The section from Poznan (Posen) to Toruń, was built separately by the Oberschlesische Eisenbahn. The 391 km section within Poland is today numbered as Polish line 353, up to the border station at Zheleznodorozhny, just inside Kaliningrad Oblast. From there, it is another 48 km to Chernyakhovsk. The 54-km line from Chernyakhovsk to Sovetsk was built in 1865, as the Tilsit-Insterburger Eisenbahn.
These lines carry freight, and regional and local passenger services. Upgrading should retain sufficient capacity for this traffic, and add enough extra capacity for fast trains, if necessary with extra tracks. Upgrading should raise the line speed (for fast trains) to around 200 km/h.
Poznań (formerly Posen, population 545 000), is on the main rail line from Berlin to Warsaw. Most high-speed services over the upgraded line would probably start in Berlin. Although the traffic flow is east-west, Poznań central station is oriented north-south, and the line from Berlin enters it from the south.
Click to enlarge…
From Poznań, the line runs 135 km north-east to Toruń (population 203 000). It crosses the Vistula here: the river is the only major natural barrier on the whole route. Toruń station is on the south bank, although the Old Town and most of the city is on the north bank. This layout allows interchange with the Warsaw – Bydgoszcz line, which runs east-west along the Vistula here.
After the main Toruń station, the existing line turns north, to cross the river at right angles, and then serves the simple Miasto (Town) Station, immediately after the bridge. Rather than doubling this line, a new bridge or tunnel crossing, further east, would be simpler.
From there, it is 69 km to Olsztyn, formerly Allenstein (population 174 000). This is the regional centre for a large area, approximately the Warmian-Masurian Voivodeship with 1,4 million inhabitants. The upgraded line would connect here, with a possible new HSL from Warsaw, including a new route from Mława to Olsztyn.
67 km further, at Korsze, formerly Korschen, the line crosses the former main line from Königsberg (now Kaliningrad) to Białystok in the Russian Empire. This was one of the major lines of the former East Prussia or Ostpreussen.
The East Prussian context of Korschen junction…
The station at Korschen was a classic rural junction station – important for travellers but otherwise isolated. Despite the proposed fast inter-regional line Kaliningrad – Ełk – Białystok, there is no reason for trains on the Sovetsk route to stop here. There are alternative rail routes, for all possible interchanges. A new bypass of the station at Korsze would avoid two right-angle curves: a new south-to-west curve would allow direct Kaliningrad – Olsztyn trains. (A cut-off line from Bartoszyce via Bisztynek would however be shorter).
With a Korsze by-pass, the line Olsztyn – Chernyakhovsk would be about 135 km long. Fast inter-regional trains could serve one intermediate station at Zheleznodorozhny (formerly Gerdauen), on a reopened regional line from Kaliningrad to Masuria.
Chernyakhovsk / Черняхо́вск, formerly Insterburg, has a population of 40 000. Unlike Korsze, it is still an active rail junction (mainly for freight, with break-of-gauge). The upgrading would include a standard-gauge by-pass of the town for through services. Via the existing station, trains could access the proposed east-west HSL Kaliningrad – Kaunas – Vilnius. Passengers could also transfer to a reopened line to Ełk.
East-West HSL Kaliningrad – Vilnius…
If the line from Chernyakhovsk to Sovetsk remains at Russian gauge, parallel standard-gauge tracks would be needed, otherwise the line can be upgraded. Although it was originally single-track, the alignment is generally straight. The old exit line from the station should be restored, with a short section in tunnel. Approaching Sovetsk, trains would join the proposed Berlin – Riga HSL.
Sovetsk / Сове́тск, formerly Tilsit (population 43 000) would not be the terminus for most trains. They would continue northwards – over the HSL toward Riga, or over a new standard-gauge line to Klaipėda and Liepāja. Passengers could also change for intermediate stations, on the proposed HSL Kaunas – Šakiai – Sovetsk. The alignment through Sovetsk is straight, and there is room for expansion of the lines and station.
The line proposed here would form a second main route between Berlin and Sovetsk – as it was until the First World War. It is not a fully new line, but with upgrading for a general line speed of 200 km/h, the journey time Poznań – Sovetsk would be about 3 hours.