Rail gauge in the Baltic States

Population density in the Baltic States is low, so local traffic alone would not justify the present rail network. In fact, these railways were built for long-distance traffic, from the start. Most of the region was part of the Russian Empire, and from the Russian perspective, the Baltic railways connected ice-free ports to the imperial hinterland, and to Moscow and Saint Petersburg. The railways typically ran east-west, and the networks in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have retained that structure. In German East Prussia there were some standard-gauge local railways, but the main lines were primarily a link to the rest of Germany. They typically ran north-east to south-west – towards Berlin.

The Russian main lines were Russian gauge, and the German lines were standard gauge. (There were some narrow-gauge local lines). In both World Wars, railway lines were converted and reconverted, as the ‘Eastern Front’ shifted. After the Soviet victory in 1945, all main lines were converted to Russian gauge, including those in northern East Prussia, now Kaliningrad Oblast.

New and upgraded rail lines in the Baltic States were proposed here earlier. A new standard-gauge railway through the Baltic States is officially planned, the Rail Baltica project. By definition it runs north-south, and the official planning isolates it from the ‘Russian’ network. Better integration with the existing network was also proposed here. That raises the question of the ideal arrangement of Russian and standard-gauge lines in the region. This post looks at the logic of gauge conversion. As with all posts here, political considerations are ignored.

The individual rail lines can be grouped by function and geography. The ‘east-west’ lines connect to specific ports: Tallinn, Ventspils, Liepāja, Klaipėda and Kaliningrad. All except Kaliningrad were originally Russian, but now Kaliningrad is the only one in Russia. Nevertheless all have traffic from Russia and Belarus.

A standard-gauge high-speed line Kaliningrad – Kaunas – Vilnius was proposed here earlier. The existing Kaliningrad – Vilnius line could remain at Russian gauge, or also be converted with parallel freight tracks. South of that main line are two lines connecting to the Polish network, which should logically be standard gauge.

HSL Kaliningrad – Vilnius: southern boundary of Russian gauge…

HSR Baltic - Nemunas

A 40-km section through Šiauliai is shared by two east-west rail routes: Klaipėda – Daugavpils and Liepāja – Vilnius. Logically, they would share the same gauge, and because of their relative isolation from other east-west lines, that can be standard gauge. The port of Klaipėda would then lose its Russian-gauge connection to the interior.

The Liepāja – Jelgava – Daugavpils line should be kept at Russian gauge, as a main freight link. With about 8 km of parallel tracks for the Vilnius line, Liepāja would also have a standard gauge exit from the port. The route Liepāja – Jelgava – Riga would also be Russian gauge. With separate tracks Jelgava – Riga, it can be combined with standard gauge on the existing north-south line Sovetsk – Šiauliai – Riga. The parallel high-speed line to Riga would also be standard gauge. Riga would be therefore be accessible by standard-gauge, for both freight and passenger trains.

The Ventspils – Riga – Daugavpils line should logically have the same gauge as the Liepāja – Jelgava – Daugavpils line. The east-west routes through Jelgava and Riga would therefore retain Russian gauge. The north-south high speed route through Riga to Tallinn would be built for standard gauge.

Russian gauge north of Ventspils – Daugavpils…

Daugava line

With this arrangement, all existing lines north of the Ventspils – Riga – Daugavpils line would remain at Russian gauge, with the high-speed line to Tallinn at standard gauge.

North-South

Three north-south high speed routes would pass through Kaliningrad Oblast. Two would converge at Sovetsk: Berlin – Riga and Poznań – Sovetsk – Riga. At either Riga or Jelgava, the combined HSL would converge with the proposed HSL Warsaw – Kaunas – Riga. (A possible Kaunas – Daugavpils standard-gauge line would be an addition to this pattern).

North of Riga there would be one standard-gauge route, the high-speed line to Tallinn. There might also be a high-speed cut-off line on the Riga – St Petersburg route, but that would use Russian gauge. The Warsaw – Vilnius – St. Petersburg line would remain at Russian gauge north of Daugavpils. (With the relative isolation of the Vilnius – Daugavpils section, it might be possible to have the break of gauge at Vilnius instead).

This pattern requires conversion of existing lines, and some new lines would be built at a different gauge. However, it does not need much additional infrastructure, just some sections of parallel track on the approach to cites. The longest section of mixed gauge route would be Jelgava – Riga, about 50 km.

Rail gauge in the Baltic States

Revised: Baltic States infrastructure

Updated with new maps:

Revised: Baltic States infrastructure

Urban-regional lines in Samland and Kaliningrad

The German city of Königsberg developed a small local rail network during the first half of the 20th century, extending into the region of Samland north of the city. Samland (Sambia) is roughly a rectangle bordered by the Baltic Sea, the river Pregel / Pregolya, and the small river Deime / Deyma. The railways served growing beach resorts on its northern coast.

Samland 1923

If Königsberg had stayed a German city, it would probably have an urban-regional S-Bahn network. However, the Second World War resulted in the partition of the former East Prussia or Ostpreussen, between Poland and the Soviet Union. Königsberg was largely destroyed, and rebuilt as the Soviet city of Kaliningrad. The northern half of East Prussia became Kaliningrad Oblast: the mainly German population was expelled and replaced, and everything was renamed in Russian.

Although many local lines in East Prussia were never rebuilt after their wartime destruction, most of the network in Samland is still in operation. The shortest line runs due north from Kaliningrad, to the coastal resort Zelenogradsk (formerly Cranz, population 12 000). The 28-km line was built by the Königsberg-Cranzer Eisenbahngesellschaft. It ends at a terminal station, very close to the beach. The line along the coast diverges just outside the station: the third line visible is a former branch, to a small harbour at Cranzbeek.

Cranz Bahnhof

A longer line runs north-west to the resorts of Pioniersky (formerly Neukuhren, population 12 000) and Svetlogorsk (formerly Rauschen, 11 000 inhabitants). The line was built in 1901 by the Samlandbahn AG. It passes through Pioniersky, 35 km from Kaliningrad, and continues 5 km along the coast to Svetlogorsk-1 station (Rauschen-Ort). It then turns in a semi-circle, terminating at Svetlogorsk-2 (Rauschen Dune), 43 km from Kaliningrad.

Rauschen Bahnhof

Both these lines start at the northern station, Kaliningrad Severny, formerly Nordbahnhof. It is now at the centre of the reconstructed city, on the main square. However, there is only a single-track connection to the main station.

From Cranz, a line runs along the coast, including the 5-km Pioniersky – Svetlogorsk section. It was originally built to Warnicken, 7 km from Rauschen-Ort. In the 1930’s, a line along the whole coast of the peninsula was planned, and it was completed in wartime. It ended at Pillau, now Baltiysk.

The other line north of Kaliningrad is the 124-km secondary line to Sovetsk (formerly Tilsit). The 47-km section to Polessk (Labiau, population 7600) also serves Guryevsk (Neuhausen, population 12 000), on the outskirts of Kaliningrad. This line also starts at Kaliningrad Severny, and could be incorporated in an urban-regional network.

The proposed high-speed line Berlin – Riga would use a new alignment from Kaliningrad to Sovetsk, although it might follow the old line in places. The old line beyond Polessk, which has an indirect route via Slavsk, would then lose its function as a Kaliningrad – Sovetsk link, and might be downgraded to a freight line.

Indicative HSL alignment…

Polessk routes HSL

The 46-km line westwards to Baltiysk (formerly Pillau, population 33 000) was built by the Ostpreussische Südbahn. An 18-km branch to Palmnicken (now Yantarny), later became part of the coastal route around the peninsula. The line had its own station in Königsberg (Pillauer Bahnhof), but it now runs to the main station. In Baltiysk, there is a terminal station, but also connections to the port – a naval base in transition to a freight/ferry port.

Pillau Bahnhof

Radial lines from Cranz, Svetlogorsk, and Polessk into Kaliningrad Severny are logical, and they can be upgraded. However, at the very least, a double-track connection to the main station is needed, with a new river crossing (bridge or tunnel).

South of the main station, trains could continue over the main lines, to Bagrationovsk and Gvardeysk. They could also continue to Mamonovo, on the Elbląg line, but not through the main station. These are logical end points for S-Bahn type services, all about 40-50 km from Kaliningrad. Unlike the lines to the coastal resorts, these are existing or former main lines, and they need extra track capacity for urban-regional services. Kaliningrad Severny would continue the function as a terminal station, for peak traffic to the coastal resorts summer. (The lines south and east of the main station have no tourist destinations, and only some villages).

The original version of this post proposed a new 6-km north-south tunnel, to replace the existing link between Kaliningrad Severny and the main station. It would follow main roads through the centre, and then cross the main station at right angles. It could then split, to access all three routes out of the main station: south-west, south and east. A central tunnel is typical of S-Bahn / RER projects in other cities. However, in this case the benefits are minimal, since Kaliningrad Severny is already well located in the central area. In fact the city centre is ‘hollow’ – the Altstadt was completely destroyed in the Second World War, and only partially rebuilt.

Finally, the line along the coast, from Baltiysk (Pillau) to Zelenogradsk (Cranz), should be reinstated, by reopening the section from Primorsk (Fischhausen) to Svetlogorsk (Rauschen) via Yantarny (Palmnicken). In comparison with the radial lines, it would carry less peak traffic, and it might be operated with lighter vehicles (‘light-train’ rather than light-rail).

See Regional lines around Kaliningrad, for more on the secondary lines in the Kaliningrad Oblast.

Urban-regional lines in Samland and Kaliningrad

Regional lines around Kaliningrad

Kaliningrad Oblast is the northern half of the former East Prussia or Ostpreussen. Until 1945 it had two main lines toward Berlin, and a network of regional lines, centred on its capital Königsberg (now Kaliningrad). Königsberg also had the beginnings of a suburban network, in the surrounding region of Samland. The East Prussian rail network was completely disrupted by the Second World War, and the new borders which followed. The east-west line from Kaliningrad to Vilnius and Minsk was developed in the Soviet period, but it is now cut twice by the EU external border.

Kaliningrad Oblast: map by Andrein, CC 3.0 License

kaliningrad oblast

High-speed lines (HSL) through Kaliningrad Oblast were proposed here earlier. They would dramatically improve European and inter-regional connections:

Almost all towns in the Oblast are administrative centres, capital of a Rayon (district). Generally, the Soviet administration after 1946 retained the German Kreis boundaries, and the Kreisstadt became the rayon centre. Some were downgraded. Pravdinsk (formerly Friedland) replaced Zheleznodorozhny (formerly Gerdauen), Mamonovo (Heiligenbeil) was absorbed in the Bagrationovsk rayon, and Krasnoznamensk effectively replaced Dobrovolsk (Pilkallen). Neman (Ragnit) became a separate rayon centre: it is on the proposed Kaunas – Sovetsk line. Fast interregional services on the proposed new lines would also serve the rayon centres Bagrationovsk, Chernyakhovsk, and Sovetsk. The existing east-west line, which would be upgraded, serves Gvardeysk, Gusev and Nesterov.

Status of rail lines in Kaliningrad Oblast, 2002. Red = abandoned, green = not in use. CC-BY License, map by Volkov Vitaly

kaliningrad-railways

Of the 18 administrative centres outside Kaliningrad, 6 are in Samland, relatively close to Kaliningrad, and 8 are on main lines. Ozyorsk, Pravdinsk, and Slavsk were on rural lines in East Prussia, and Krasnoznamensk (Lasdehnen), capital of the smallest rayon, was once terminus of a narrow-gauge rail line.

As a compliment to the construction of through high-speed routes, these rail routes need development:

  • the local network in Samland, described separately
  • the local line via Polessk
  • former local line Pravdinsk – Zheleznodorozhny, and on into Masuria
  • former local line Chernyakhovsk – Ozyorsk – Gołdap – Ełk.

The Königsberg – Tilsit secondary line was a 124-km rural line with a limited slow service, and 28 intermediate stations. The line now serves three rayon centres: Guryevsk (Neuhausen, population 11 000) on the outskirts of Kaliningrad, Polessk (Labiau, population 8000) and Slavsk (Heinrichswalde, population 5000). Both Polessk and Slavsk rayons have about 21 000 inhabitants, Guryevsk rayon 50 000. However, the line parallels the proposed HSL Kaliningrad – Sovetsk, and could never compete with it for through journeys. The 47-km section to Polessk could be integrated into a Kaliningrad urban-regional network (S-Bahn). Probably, only transit freight traffic would justify the remaining section via Slavsk. It could be shortened by 6 km, by re-routing it on the south side of Slavsk.

The rural line to Gerdauen (Zheleznodorozhny) diverged from the main line to Kaunas, at Löwenhagen, 20 km south-east of Kaliningrad. From there it ran south to Domnau, then 11 km east to Friedland, and then 26 km south-east to Gerdauen. The line is abandoned, and would need full reconstruction anyway, so a new shorter route could start closer to Kaliningrad. A 14-km cut-off from Lugovoye would shorten the route to Domnovo (Domnau), to about 39 km.

Click to enlarge:

domnovo line

Pravdinsk (Friedland, population 4500) and Zheleznodorozhny (Gerdauen, population 2800) are the only other settlements which merit a station. (The rayon population density is only 17 persons/km). Zheleznodorozhny could be served by fast inter-regional trains on the Poznań – Sovetsk line.

Local traffic would probably not justify this section alone, but the alignment be restored over another 70 km, as far Węgorzewo (formerly Angerburg, population 12 000) and Giżycko (formerly Lötzen, population 30 000). This would take the line into the Masurian lake district, a tourist destination, and connect it with the Polish network.

masuria section

The line would then have an inter-regional function. Giżycko is on the proposed fast inter-regional line Kaliningrad – Ełk – Białystok. Until 1944, the route carried through trains Königsberg – Gerdauen – Angerburg. With the new cut-off at Lugovoye, the total route Kaliningrad – Giżycko would be about 150 km. On a fully reconstructed line, a journey time of 2 hours is certainly feasible.

Restoration of longer inter-regional routes would also justify re-opening of the regional line Chernyakhovsk – Ozyorsk – Gołdap – Ełk. Only the 27-km section from Olecko to Ełk is still in use (Polish line 41). The line was 119 km long, and operated as a single line, table 137e, with the fastest train taking 3 hours. A new double-track and electrified regional line on the old alignment, would include a new 5-km exit line eastwards, avoiding Chernyakhovsk airbase: that would shorten the route by about 2 km.

Click to enlarge…

Goldap line

The line would serve Ozyorsk (formerly Darkehmen, Angerapp, population 5000). The rayon has only 14 000 inhabitants, and no large villages, so that would be the only station on this line inside Kaliningrad Oblast. In Poland, Gołdap (population 13 000, county 27 000) and Olecko (formerly Treuburg, population 22 000, county 46 000) are larger, and the rural areas more densely populated.

At Ełk (formerly Lyck, population 60 000), the line would connect with the HSL Warsaw – Kaunas – Riga and with the inter-regional line Kaliningrad – Ełk – Białystok. On a more-or-less new line, with most village stations closed, a journey time of 90 minutes is feasible.

Finally, regional services on an upgraded line to Elblag would serve Mamonovo, population 8000. As Heiligenbeil it was a Kreisstadt in East Prussia, but with open borders it would be overshadowed by Braniewo in Poland, 13 km further south (population 17 000).

Regional lines around Kaliningrad

High-speed line Kaliningrad – Kaunas – Vilnius

Three high-speed lines (HSL) into the Baltic States were proposed here earlier. They are ‘north-south’ lines in the sense of being a connection from the South, but in fact they mainly run south-west to north-east. They cross ‘east-west’ lines, built inland from Baltic ports, when the region was part of the Russian Empire.

A new east-west high-speed line from Kaliningrad to Kaunas and Vilnius would link three proposed high-speed lines:

Berlin – Riga…

Berlin - Riga HSL

The Kaliningrad – Vilnius HSL would create additional high-speed routes, such as Berlin – Kaunas. At Vilnius, it would also link to an upgraded Warsaw – Vilnius – St. Petersburg line.

There is already a rail line from Kaliningrad to Kaunas and Vilnius: it continues to Minsk, the capital of Belarus. Because Kaliningrad Oblast is a Russian exclave, the line is a transit route. Residents of Kaliningrad have to cross the EU external border into Lithuania, and then exit the EU into Belarus, to reach the rest of Russia. Air travel is a more convenient option. For freight, the line is effectively the only route between the port of Kaliningrad, and its hinterland in Belarus and Russia.

HSR Baltic - Nemunas

At present the entire line is Russian gauge. Originally there was a break of gauge at Eydtkuhnen, on the border between the German and Russian empires. Apart from some narrow-gauge local lines, the other lines within East Prussia were all standard gauge.

The proposed HSL would run parallel to the existing line, duplicating the rail approaches to the stations at Kaunas and Vilnius. That leaves the options open for the rest of the network. The Russian-gauge line could simply be retained in it present form, or it could be converted to standard gauge, and a separate Russian-gauge freight line added.

With the construction of the three proposed high-speed lines, the main stations at Kaliningrad, Kaunas and Vilnius would be served by standard-gauge lines. Conversion of the line between them therefore seems logical. Reconversion to standard gauge would also be the most logical option for the rest of Kaliningrad Oblast, which is the northern half of former East Prussia. (The rest of East Prussia was allocated to Poland after the Second World war, and its railways remained standard gauge).

Although more complex, conversion to standard-gauge seems the best option in Lithuania, to avoid further gauge breaks there. The most comprehensive solution would be: standard gauge south of the rail line Liepāja – Jelgava – Jēkabpils – Daugavpils (brown on the map), and west of the Warsaw – Vilnius – Daugavpils line (dark red).

Lithuania gauge

For development of regional networks around Kaunas and Vilnius, unity of gauge is preferable. That also argues against retention of a Russian-gauge line for local services, when a parallel standard-gauge HSL is built. So a freight transit line seems to be preferable, even though it requires two separate new lines. It could by-pass Vilnius and Kaunas using existing freight lines, connecting via dual-gauge freight sidings, to industry and freight terminals in those cities.

For onward travel toward Minsk, HSL passengers could simply change trains at Vilnius. Alternatively, a limited number of variable gauge trains could be used for through services to Minsk, even possibly on a Russian-gauge HSL.

Alignment of the HSL

The alignment would follow existing infrastructure over the entire length, and is not described in detail. The standard-gauge HSL would start at Kaliningrad station, where it would diverge from the proposed Berlin – Kaliningrad – Riga HSL high-speed line. The city of Kaliningrad / Калининград, with 450 000 inhabitants, is the only large city in Kaliningrad Oblast (population 970 000).

East of Kaliningrad, the HSL would follow the existing line for 90 km, to Chernyakhovsk / Черняхо́вск, where it would connect with the Ausbaustrecke Poznań – Sovetsk. From Chernyakhovsk, the new line would again parallel the existing alignment to Kazlų Rūda, 37 km from Kaunas. Here, it would join the proposed high-speed line Warsaw – Kaunas – Riga, and they would form a single HSL into Kaunas. The section from Chernyakhovsk to Kaunas is 150 km long.

At Kaunas (population 300 000, region 675 000) there is one rail line through the city, with only a single track north of the station. There is a short bypass line at the eastern edge. The station location is peripheral, but there is no good alternative site. The new HSL would simply run next to the existing line, with a duplicate bridge over the River Nemunas, and new tunnels on the northern side. For transit freight, the bypass could be retained at Russian-gauge, and parallel tracks provided on the rest of the route through Kaunas.

Kaunas: east-west route in orange…

Kaunas lines

The HSL to Vilnius would also follow the existing northern exit, and then diverge to run alongside the A1 motorway. It can follow this motorway, and the connecting A1 highway, all the way to the edge of Vilnius, near Paneriai station. From there, it would follow the existing alignment into the main station, about 10 km further. These new tracks would also be used by high-speed trains from Warsaw, via the upgraded Warsaw – St. Petersburg line. The Kaunas – Vilnius section would be about 100 km long.

The main station of Vilnius (population 540 000) lies south of the city centre: as in Kaunas, there is only one line through the city. There is a bypass line, which also starts near Paneriai station, and runs south of the built-up area. Again, Russian gauge could be retained for this line, and the connecting route into Belarus. In effect the Russian-gauge network would begin at Paneriai, or further west if the branch to Grigiškės is extended to connect with the Vilnius line at Rykantai.

Routes through Vilnius: east-west in orange, Warsaw – St. Petersburg in blue, bypass in green…

Vilnius lines

Because the line through Vilnius is shared by two main routes, four tracks are essential here, even without any new high-speed lines. Six tracks are preferable, on the approaches to the main station, with widened cuttings on the eastern side. East of Vilnius, there would be standard-gauge track to the junction at Naujoji-Vilnia, where the Minsk line splits from the St. Petersburg line. If variable-gauge trains were used for service to Minsk, the gauge change would be here.

The Kaliningrad – Kaunas – Vilnius high-speed route would be about 340 km long, so a journey time of 2 hours 15 minutes should be possible, for the fastest train services.

High-speed line Kaliningrad – Kaunas – Vilnius

Upgraded line (Ausbaustrecke) Poznań – Sovetsk

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.

Posen-Tilsit Ausbaustrecke

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…

Insel_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.

The route

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…

Poznań  centre

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.

Toruń cutoff

95 km from Toruń, the line crosses line 9 Warsaw – Gdańsk, at Iława (formerly Deutsch Eylau). Most high-speed trains would therefore stop here, although the town has only 33 000 inhabitants.

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…

preussen

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).

Korsze lines

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…

HSR Baltic - Nemunas

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.

Tilsit : Sovetsk

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.

Upgraded line (Ausbaustrecke) Poznań – Sovetsk