Lithuania and Ukraine have signed a memorandum that provides for linking the Viking train project to the new Silk Road route that passes through the Trans-Caspian corridor and allows trains transporting cargoes to bypass Russia. Prime Minister of Ukraine Arsenii Yatseniuk announced this at a meeting with journalists and the management of the Ukrzaliznytsia Public Joint-Stock Railway Company, the CFTS portal reports.

Ukrzaliznytsia’s acting head Oleksandr Zavhorodnyi also said that Ukrzaliznytsia is currently working to persuade other European shippers to use the Ukraine-China train.

The Viking rail project was launched in 2003. The participants in the project are Ukraine, Belarus, Lithuania, Latvia, and, from 2012, Bulgaria. The total length of the Illichivsk (Ukraine)-Minsk (Belarus)-Draugyste (Lithuania) route is 1,766 kilometers.

As reported, the pilot container train departed from Illichivsk (Odesa region) on the route Ukraine-Georgia-Azerbaijan-Kazakhstan-China (via the Caspian and the Black Sea) on 15 January. The train arrived at its destination on the Chinese border in the early hours of 31 January (after 16 days). The train’s travel time is expected to reduce to 10-11 days in the future.

This route is a new branch of the Silk Road and an alternative that will allow redirection of cargo flows in an easterly direction, bypassing Russian territory. The new transit route includes ferry services on the Black and Caspian Seas (Illichivsk-Batumi and Alat-Aktau Port) and, according to the Ministry of Infrastructure, it should become competitive compared with the traditional overland route.