Analyst: Make Rail Baltic more directly useful to local population (2)
Current opposition to the Rail Baltic project could be countered by integrating it in Tallinn’s metropolitan transport network, analytic Hannes Luts said earlier this week. Luts proposed taking the Rail Baltic route along the existing tracks between Tallinn and Rapla.
Luts said on ETV on Tuesday that if Rail Baltic’s route were to be drawn along the already established Rapla-Tallinn railway line, Tallinn’s metropolitan region would get a modern railway system, and the project on the whole would be easier to explain to the local population.
Luts said that the currently ongoing legal disputes surrounding the state’s expropriation of land owners for the sake of the new line were entirely understandable. Meanwhile, how the local population eventually received the project also depended on its evident benefits for the people living in the area, he added.
The current route didn’t do much for the city and the municipalities surrounding it, Luts said. In order to disturb as few people as possible, the current project avoided towns and villages. The conflict, according to Luts, is that though there are high hopes that the new line will benefit local transport, building it meant having to tear down the homes of plenty of people.
Because of this, drawing the route along the existing railway line would make more sense, Luts opined. The cost of construction would doubtlessly increase, but the benefits, compared to taking the line through an area where not too many people live and homes would still need to be given up for it, were convincing.
“Let’s be honest, with the help of Rail Baltic we could get a state-of-the-art, efficient metropolitan railway from Tallinn to Rapla, because the current railway has only low capacity,” Luts said.
What wasn’t yet clear was the environment of the project in terms of transport and tax policy, Luts pointed out. In the end, what would count was whether or not Rail Baltic would have freight volumes to move, and how much this would cost. The price of transport again would depend on the taxation of railway versus road transport.
Today railway transports were taxed twice, Luts said, as operators needed to pay both energy and fuel excise duties as well as for the use of the railway infrastructure. This didn’t contribute to a favorable outlook.