High-speed line Kaunas – Šakiai – Sovetsk

This high-speed line (HSL) would serve an entirely new route, generally parallel to the river Neman / Nemunas / Niemen / Memel. It would offer a second, shorter, route from Kaunas to Klaipėda – trains would continue over the proposed HSL Sovetsk – Klaipėda – Liepāja. At Sovetsk, it would also connect with the proposed high-speed line Berlin – Kaliningrad – Riga – Tallinn, which passes through Sovetsk, and the proposed Ausbaustrecke Poznań – Sovetsk. At Kaunas it would connect to the proposed HSL Kaliningrad – Vilnius and it would cross the proposed HSL Warsaw – Kaunas – Riga. Three intermediate stations would serve smaller regional centres: Šakiai, Jurbarkas, and Neman.

Kaunas - Klaipeda

The alignment is not described in detail. The terrain is relatively flat, apart from escarpments along the banks of the Nemunas river. The region along the line is thinly populated: part of the new line would would simply be cut through the forest. The line would cross the EU external boundary, and end in the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad. Like the others listed above, this proposal simply ignores the borders.

The line would diverge from the existing line, just south of Kaunas station. Kaunas has a population of 355 000, and the region about 675 000. The station is on the north bank of the river Nemunas, and a new bridge would be needed, since the existing bridge curves to the south. The new line would then enter a tunnel, at the escarpment, to climb (under Freda) to the higher ground.

The line would surface at the Europos Prospektas, or run in cut-and-cover tunnel under it. A Kaunas southern station here, at the crossing with Veiverių gatve, would be logical. This is the old main road into Kaunas from the south, and a possible route of a north-south metro to the historic centre. The Freda tunnel section would be about 3 km long.

The alignment east to Šakiai is not specified here: there is no existing infrastructure to follow. The station at Šakiai, (population 7000, district 39 000) would be on the north-eastern side of the town. It would be about 60 km from Vilnius. From Šakiai, the new line would run south of the existing roads, toward Jurbarkas (population 14 000, district 38 000). The town would then be about 80-85 km from Kaunas.

Kaunas - Jurbarkas

The original version of this post proposed a rail bridge over the Nemunas, and an alignment north of the river, crossing back to the south bank near Viešvilė. However, Jurbarkas is not large enough to justify this detour, purely for a better station site. Instead the new line could serve a station on the south bank, at Kiduliai, and continue on the south bank toward Neman. Again there is almost no existing infrastructure to follow, and the alignment shown is indicative only.

Sovetsk - Jurbarkas

Neman / Неман, formerly Ragnit, has a population of 12 000, the district 22 000.
The new line would join the alignment of the pre-war line from Ebenrode (now Nesterov). Some houses would be demolished near the junction, but the existing station site is ideal. Via the new line, a reconstructed station would be about 50 km from Jurbarkas, and 130-135 km from Kaunas.

From Neman, the line would first follow the existing alignment toward Sovetsk, a straight line. To avoid some sharp curves, it can then go straight on, and curve to join the main line, about 2 km south of Sovetsk station. The proposed HSL from Kaliningrad, and a new line from Chernyakhovsk, would also join the existing alignment here.

Sovetsk / Сове́тск, formerly Tilsit has a population of 43 000, so it is not a large city. It is the interchange with 4 other high-speed lines, which would justify a HSL from Kaunas. Sovetsk station would be 15 km from Neman, and about 145-150 km from Kaunas.

The logical destination of high-speed services via the new line is Klaipėda, which would be about 235 km from Kaunas. With a new line north, Liepāja might be the terminus. The HSL would significantly improve the route from Kaunas to Klaipėda. The existing route is very indirect, via Jonava and Šiauliai. With one stop in Sovetsk, a Kaunas – Klaipėda journey time of 90 minutes is certainly feasible. Inter-regional trains Kaunas – Sovetsk, with four intermediate stations, should take just over an hour.

High-speed line Kaunas – Šakiai – Sovetsk

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