The latest volley in the international squabble over Rail Baltic was fired yesterday when the director of Rail Baltica Statyba, a recently-established daughter firm of Lithuanian Railways, said he did not understand Estonia's claims that his country was slowing down the project and maintained that Lithuania was five steps ahead of its regional neighbors in developing the venture.
In an interview published by Delfi Lithuania yesterday, Dainius Budrys said: “I think that Estonians are worried over nothing. We are prepared and we are five steps ahead compared to the Estonians and Latvians because we founded a company [Rail Baltica Statyba] and provided a budget of 650,000 euros for the project."
The Lithuanian government's demand earlier this month to include Vilnius in the Rail Baltic route had sparked criticism from Estonian officials, who fear that the project may be delayed beyond 2016 when it will no longer be eligible for EU funding.
Budrys, who is a former MP, pointed out that the decision to assess the possibility including Vilnius was made by Parliament last year, and would be completed by the end of the current year.
He also said that the participating countries should consider slowing the top speed of passenger trains envisioned in the project from its currently-planned 240 kph, which would provide a better compromise with the needs of cargo rail infrastructure.
Budrys speculated that the reason the Estonians seem to be in such a hurry over the project could be pressure from Siim Kallas, the EU Commissioner for transport, who is Estonian.
Last week, Nerijus Mačiulis, the Chief Economist at Swedbank's Lithuania branch, said that the Lithuanian government's demand to include Vilnius in the Rail Baltic project has no serious economic basis.