Rail Baltic will be completed by the 2026 deadline and there is no reason to fear the loss of european money, said Minister of Economic Affairs and Infrastructure Taavi Aas (Centre) after an audit published last week suggested the target date would be missed.
Aas was speaking to the Riigikogu's Committee on State Budget Control who were sceptical of his claims. Committee members questioned whether Rail Baltic could be built at the same time as major road construction projects.
Last week an audit by the State Audit Offices said it was likely the Rail Baltic expected completion date would "probably" be missed as it was not "realistic" and would not keep to its projected budget. Missing the deadline could mean losing the money allocated to the project, the audit said.
On Monday, Aas told the committee that there was no cause for concern.
"Just as the representatives of the Rail Baltic Estonian company said here today, the schedule is set up and all the options are in place. As for getting more expensive, it will become clearer after the procurements. Two procurements have taken place, one as predicted and the other considerably cheaper," said Aas.
There is also no need to worry about the possible revocation of the European subsidy funds, he added.
Chairman of the commission Jürgen Ligi (Reform) said the ministry's arguments were convincing, but it raises questions about how four-lane highways to Tartu, Narva and Pärnu are to be built at the same time.
"This does not seem realistic. It is probably not feasible. Each item should be calculated separately," Ligi said.
However, Aivar Kokk (Isamaa) said that the project has been delayed for two years, which means more investments will have to be completed in the coming years, but intense road construction should begin.
"We have decided that 2+2 roads will be built from Tartu, Narva and Pärnu to Tallinn. If we invest almost a billion euros at one time on road construction — usually it is between €300 and €500 million — there will be a shortage of labor, a shortage of construction materials and prices will increase," said Kokk.
Kokk said he sees a problem in management, as evidenced by the rapid change of RB Rail managers.
Editor: Helen Wright