The Rail Baltic project will be delayed by four years and an additional €400 million needs to be found for the construction of the railway, Minister of Economic Affairs and Infrastructure Taavi Aas (Center) said on Friday.
Speaking to ERR, Aas said: "The whole project will certainly not be postponed."
"We're still trying to get the connections ready as soon as possible. I really want them to be ready in 2026 or 2027. Maybe this means there will not be two tracks next to each other and there will just be overtaking points. And then, in the future, it will be built to completion," he said.
The minister said there are several reasons for pushing back the 2026 deadline. He said when the original deadline was set no one knew how long processes, such as environmental assessments or planning procedures, would take.
Another reason is the inability to accurately predict the project's final cost due to rising construction prices.
"Today, we see that we also need to use the next EU period funds. As this is a TNT network project [Trans-European Transport Network], the deadline for Europe is 2030. The year 2026 was our own deadline," the minister told ERR.
Asked how much additional money Estonia needs, Aas said: "It is estimated today that this deficit could be in the order of €400 million. Certainly, this number cannot yet be taken as an absolute."
Work is also being done to find ways to reduce costs.
Asked how long it will take to get the extra funds, he reiterated that the €400 million figure is not set in stone. "It is very difficult to predict today whether it will become 300 million or 500 million in 2030," he said.
Aas said the goal is still to have a connection running to the Latvian capital, Riga, by 2026 or 2027.
Asked how satisfied he was with the Rail Baltic team given the current problems, the minister reiterated it was difficult for people to understand how the process would work at the start.
"I think the most important thing at the time was that there were people who dared to make that decision to start this project," he said.
When completed, Rail Baltica will connect the Baltic capitals and will also continue on to Warsaw in Poland. The project is majority funded by the European Union.
Editor's note: Additional quotes from Taavi Aas were added to this article on October 3.
Editor: Helen Wright