Opinion: Rail Baltic holds up a mirror to Estonian society – up to a point ({{contentCtrl.commentsTotal}})

Anvar Samost.
Anvar Samost. Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

While Rail Baltic does not physically exist yet, it has been on the drawing board for many years and has brought into relief certain "self-evident" truths about Estonia which can then be tested, such as the oft-repeated claim (particularly by people outside Estonia) that it has a small population or that projects related to Estonia never seem to pay off when placed in an excel spreadsheet, writes ERR senior journalist Anvar Samost, in regional daily Põhjarannik.

The high speed rail line, linking all three Baltic capitals with the rest of Europe, has shown up dust and cobwebs in the corners as its construction has already started, though these are hardly anything new and have been known about for at least a decade, Samost writes (link in Estonian).

That the European Court of Auditors has said that Rail Baltic is going to be more costly than originally estimated (€7 billion compared with €4.7 billion, where the official cost currently stands at €5.8 billion) and completed around four years later than its 2026 deadline, has brought its commercial viability into question, given there is, for instance, no current north-south rail freight transport between the three Baltic States and the relatively small populations (around six million combined - ed.).

That the project has been a rallying point for disparate, often opposing, groups ranging from Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) supporters to the Kalamaja (a fashionable, gentrified area of Tallinn - ed.) set almost gives the lie to a lot of the opposition, Samost writes, with many engaged just for conflict's sake – though one thing can be certain, that even if the line is not ready in 10 years' time, surprisingly many will be surprised by the outcome.

The Reidi tee project in Tallinn was heralded as a disaster both before and during its construction, but now it has been open several months it has proved to be a boon for tens of thousands, so there is no reason to think that Rail Baltic will be very different, nor that it is any less (or more) significant than other, airier philosophical questions of existence often put to people, nor that the holding up of a mirror to a democracy and its processes is a bad thing, he adds.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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