Kallas to Reveal EU Infrastructure Plans, Officals Take Ride on Rail Baltic Express ({{commentsTotal}})

Source: Photo: ERR

Over 1,000 people - among them 18 ministers as well as MEPs and CEOs - are in Tallinn today as European Commissioner of Transport Siim Kallas reveals new maps of the EU's nine major infrastructure corridors. 

Worth tens of billions of euros, they will create modern east-west connections and further integrate the single market.

The TEN-T Days (Trans-European Transport Networks), taking place from October 16-18, began with a performance of sorts - train trip/conference with the itinerary Vilnius-Riga-Tartu-Tallinn whose purpose was to demonstrate the outdated state of Baltic rail connections.

An ETV journalist asked James Pond, the European coordinator of Rail Baltic, the planned high-speed railroad, if he would pay for a ticket for such a train trip.

"Well, not this train because it took us 10 hours and 50 minutes, but if the new line is built it's going to take considerably less and then it's going to be a very pleasant way of traveling as it is in Western europe. This is what we need," Pond said.

The Estonian project leader of Rail Baltic, Indrek Sirp, said: "The purpose of this train ride is to take people who deal with these issues in the Baltic countries, but also from farther away - in Finland, Germany, Poland and the European Commission - on a symbolic journey to the consciousness that the rail connection is currently essentially nonexistent."

One major issue in Rail Baltic is finding a solution for the broad vs. narrow gauge rail infrastructure. The Baltics have used Soviet-era broad gauge tracks, while Western Europe uses the narrow tracks. The Lithuanian transport minister, Rimantas Sinkevičius, said the broad gauge is essential for trade while the other has the potential for high-speed passenger travel. "Synergy can always be found," Sinkevičius said.

The Latvian transport minister, Anrijs Matiss, drew attention to the urgency of Rail Baltic. "It is the first chance to get this railway because if to construct this railway from the beginning, from the zero, only using our funds, it would be very expensive, impossible to do without the support of European Union," he said.

Estonia has so far made the most progress in the Rail Baltic project. Leaders hope to reach a final consensus on the detailed route of the train line by the end of 2015. In that case, a construction plan could be drawn up in 2016.

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