Rail transport is one of the most perspective modes of land transport considering both security and ecology aspects, and it is the basis for the export of Latvian transport and logistics services and for the efficient operation of other economy sectors.
A joint 1520 mm gauge railway system and a unified system for organising rail freight transportation provide the CIS and Asian countries with a direct access to Latvian ports in the EU. The proportion of domestic rail transport accounts to some 4 % only which can be explained with the comparatively short distances.
As the sector is liberalised according to the perspective development policies of the European railways, there are three privately-owned capital companies that have been operating in the Latvian freight transport market for several years along with SJSC “Latvijas dzelzceļš” daughter company Ltd. “LDz Cargo”: JSC “Baltijas ekspresis”, JSC “Baltijas tranzīta serviss” and JSC “Euro Rail Cargo”.
International passenger rail transport is currently provided to Russia, Belarus and Ukraine by Ltd. „LDZ Cargo” in cooperation with Ltd. “L-Ekspresis”. The joint-stock company JSC “Pasažieru vilciens” is the only provider of domestic public rail transport service.
Public railway infrastructure is developed according to the needs of the economy and is managed by the joint-stock company SJSC “Latvijas dzelzceļš” founded by the State. SJSC “Latvijas dzelzceļš” intends to electrify the main railway networks in the years to come to raise the transport efficiency, promote use of environment-friendly technology and boost the international competitiveness of the Latvian railway transit corridor. This project will be co-funded by the EU Cohesion Fund and SJSC “Latvijas dzelzceļš”. The laws and regulations in the national rail industry have been harmonised with the European Union legislation and the requirements on the rail transport market liberalisation and traffic safety have been put in practice.
“Rail Baltica” is a new railway infrastructure project whose aim is to integrate the Baltic States into the European railway network. There are five EU Member States participating in the project — Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia, and indirectly also Finland. The project opens up a possibility for Latvia to become one of the most important regional transport hubs as the European gauge (1435 mm) will meet the 1520 mm gauge railway here.
As a part of “Rail Baltica”, a multimodal logistics centre (the so-called dry port) will be built in Salaspils; this will be a freight terminal for handling freights from wagons of one gauge to wagons of another gauge.