Only 32 plots of land have been acquired for Rail Baltic in Estonia ({{contentCtrl.commentsTotal}})

Of the approximately 650 properties needed for the construction of a high-speed railway, 32 have been acquired in Estonia so far. The Land Board estimates that 200 procedures can be carried out at maximum per year, but negotiations with landowners are very complicated. However, no expropriation decision has yet been taken.

The Land Board began land acquisition negotiations on the straight sections of the railway in October 2018, following the completion of the preliminary railway project.

Acquisition of land has started in some sections in Kohila, Rapla and Kehtna rural municipalities in Rapla county, Pärnu county and Saku rural municipality in Harju county. In the near future, there will also be a timetable for the acquisition of land for road overpasses and animal crossing areas, said Merje Krinal, the project manager for Rail Baltic told ERR.

To date, eight properties have been acquired in Pärnu County, 19 in Rapla County and five in Harju County. There are 13 plots of land in three counties pending contracts, in addition, agreements have been completed with 60 property owners. Objections have so far been raised against nine properties.

In total, about 650 privately owned properties must be acquired for the railway. The Land Board is currently working on 243 properties, Krinal said. "Land acquisition needs to be done as soon as possible, but most of the land acquisition can be started after the basic project is completed," she said.

The preparation of the main project started last year and it should be completed by 2022, said Kristjan Kaunissaare, Estonian Rail Coordinator. At the same time, an environmental impact assessment is underway as it is expected that the basic project may still alter the railway route in some places.

Krinal said the land acquisition negotiations and procedure are complex and take a long time. "It is necessary to carry out an appraisal, to negotiate various alternatives, to carry out land readjustment, to transfer public property at the exchange of land, to prepare and arrange acquisition or swap decisions and to conclude notarial contracts," he described.

If the design work goes smoothly, the administrative capacity is expected to handle a maximum of 200 procedures per year, Krinal said.

There are several ways to acquire land. The most preferred is a voluntary sale and purchase transaction. However, at the request of the landowner and the availability of suitable public land, two or more adjacent immovables may be exchanged or three or more plots of land may be reallocated. If no agreement with the landowner is reached, expropriation remains the only option. As of now, no expropriation has been decided.

Currently, most of the land, 74 percent, has been acquired by purchasing it, 14 percent through land readjustment, or 12 percent through land change, Krinal said.

The purchasing of land in cash is based on the compensation value, which takes into account, in addition to the market value, the losses and foregone income from immovable property.

There are also additional benefits when redeeming money. These include a 20 percent incentive pay and 16 hours of work-related compensation. There is an additional 10 percent for the loss of residence, Krinal explained. In addition, the consideration and fringe benefits paid in acquisition proceedings are exempt from income tax.

However, only the market value of the land to be acquired is used for the exchange of land and land readjustment. The land acquisition is financed by the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications.

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Editor: Helen Wright

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