Presenter: Phil Kirkland
On Thursday 10th October, Phil Kirkland spent his final evening before retirement after 47 years’ continual railway service presenting “Rail Baltica – a look at the railways and developments in Eastern Europe” to 27 members and visitors at Newcastle. Far from reflecting the inertia surrounding HS2, the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have taken advantage of substantial EU funding to build a new north-south standard gauge route through their countries, creating a high speed link with the rest of Europe, specifically designed to stimulate and help sustain their economies independently of the adjacent, former communist states. Traffic began along the first stage linking Poland with the Lithuanian border in October 2015 and the construction of phase two began earlier this year, which, by 2030, will link Tallinn with Warsaw and beyond, a subsequent option being an undersea tunnel to integrate Helsinki into the scheme. Phil most ably described and explained the requirements of this phenomenal project and how Latvian railways have successfully improved their infrastructure construction and maintenance techniques to produce permanent way that is second to none. We wish Phil and long and happy retirement, though we suspect he will still play an active part in railways’ development for years to come!