Lithuanian railways in a mess :)

Article published on July 27, 2009
community published
Article published on July 27, 2009
Yesterday I was supposed to take a 19.40 train from Kaunas to Vilnius. That's what I often do, but this time this routine thing didn't end without adventures. My dad and brother brought me to the place which pretends to be a train station. Since the tunnel near Kaunas was discovered to be in a dangerous condition, they are repairing it now - for years.
So the train between the two biggest cities in Lithuania stops in the middle of nowhere, in Petrasiunai. It's an open air place with a parking lot, three stinky public toilets and a kiosk for tickets.

Buses and trolleybuses passing by this place are poorly synchronised with trains, and there hardly any microbuses later in the evening. Overall, the place leaves a rather negative impression, I would guess, on someone who is visiting Kaunas for the first time. But for me it's OK, as long as I can get a ticket and go to Vilnius and back.

When we arrived there yesterday, it was 19.10, and we saw a bus saying "Kaunas-1 - Vilnius". While my dad went up to ask what it's all about, the bus left. A lady in a uniform approached us and told us that more reparations are taking place, so the train leaves from Palemonas instead of Kaunas-1 station. "You can still catch it with a car", she said. The bus was supposed to take people from Kaunas to Palemonas, but it left 30 min before the usual departure of the train. We hurried to Palemonas. It's a small village near Kaunas, probably with a status of a town, where a famous writer Salomeja Neris was born. There are no signs indicating where the station is, but we found it after asking three people. The station has no ticket offices. The train was already waiting. After running back and forth in the train, I finally found an attendant and asked him how do I buy the ticket. He said that I have to buy it from him, pay as if I'm going from Kaunas, and pay LTL 3 extra, because I buy the ticket on the train (which, as you know, is not my choice). Not like I'd go bankrupt from paying 3 LTL (EUR 0.87), but I felt like it was a waste of money trying to catch this train instead of taking a bus. I mean, we had to go to this village to catch the train, and then pay extra for buying the ticket in the village. The worst thing was that it felt like nobody knows anything and nobody cares - as always in this country. I would say it would've been more understandable if the bus left Kaunas by the time the train is supposed to leave, and arrive in Palemonas, Vilnius, etc later. People who are used to taking this train could have caught it then. The way they did it, how was anyone supposed to know that they have to arrive in the station earlier and take the bus? There were no signs or anything saying that one should get on this bus, which was waiting in the parking lot.

Lithuanian railways recently got some EU and government money for renovation, so they have some of the most modern trains in the Baltic states. It takes more or less an hour by train from Vilnius to Kaunas, and it's a very convenient and pleasant trip. All people under 26 get a discount during the summer season, and all EU students with ISIC get a discount during the academic year. However, as always, where technology and infrastructure can be upgraded quickly, human resources and respect for customers in Lithuania are usually lagging far behind.

The problem with the railways which caused the mess should be fixed by 30th of July. Yet it's still unclear when trains start running to the Kaunas station proper.