Conventional wisdom has held that the preparations for Rail Baltic would take place in the new EU financing period about to begin, with most of the actual physical work taking place in the next, 2021-2027 period. But a new analysis by the Technical Surveillance Authority turns this on its head.
The new report says that due to the rules for disbursing European funding, railway construction should already be well under way by 2020, the agency said this week, according to Eesti Päevaleht. The Baltic states should lose no time in setting up a joint enterprise.
Up to now, the blueprint for the Rail Baltic was a two-phase approach recommended by AECOM, a US-based architecture and engineering consultancy. But a source for the new report is a legal assessment commissioned from the international consultancy TRINITI.
"It is advisable that construction be started as fast as possible, preferably before 2020, as the AECOM study stated, and to complete as much of the work as possible during the first financing period," the TSA report, drafted in February but released only now, says.
The reason is that all three Baltics want to tap into the the Connecting Europe facility not just for laying the actual rail, but also for buying up the necessary land under eminent domain. That is expected to cost 149 million euros. But since the land purchase funds have to be less than 10 percent of the total project cost, the project should already have incurred expenditure of 1.5 billion euros by that time for Brussels to pick up the tab for the land.
To facilitate construction and use of European funds, a joint enterprise should be founded by the three governments, completely distinct from the current state railway operators and their Russian-gauge rail infrastructure, the TSA report said. The TRINITI consultants said that the governments should also agree on a uniform set of railway legislation on the new European gauge railway.