Ministry: Rail Baltica progress slowed by poor design work, bad management

Work-in-progress on the Rail Baltica high-speed link in Estonia.
Work-in-progress on the Rail Baltica high-speed link in Estonia. Source: ERR

Delays to work on Rail Baltica in Estonia, the planned high-speed rail link which will connect all three Baltic States on a north-south route to the Polish border, are the result of poor work on the part of Spanish design agency Idom, who, Rail Baltic, the firm in charge of the Estonian section of the line, failed to grasp the nuances of Estonian domestic law and regulations in providing their work, which is otherwise up to par.

At the same time, management by the joint-venture overseeing the project is also to blame, the Estonian ministry responsible for infrastructure says.

Rail Baltic project coordinator for the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications Kristjan Kaunissaare told ETV news show "Aktuaalne kaamera" (AK) Monday that: "The designer has not been able to, by the deadline, submit by the deadline, sufficiently high-quality design solutions which would allow building permits on whose basis the acquisition of land would be viable."

"Perhaps they did not acquaint themselves precisely enough with the documentation degree of accuracy needed to obtain a building permit in Estonia," Kaunissaare went on.

Rail Baltic Estonia chief Anvar Salomets says the same. "If we look at the pledges and the fulfillment of these, a certain pattern emerges. Continued delays, and the failure to stick to promises stand out," Salomets said.

At the same time, while the Spanish firm initially did not understand everything, now they are improving, Salomets added.

Board chair at RB Rail AS.Agnis Driksna told AK that: "Now, after one-and-a-half years of design work, I believe that they (ie. Idom – ed.) have grasped what is needed in accordance with Estonian laws in order to complete the projects. We have already observed that they can offer projects of sufficient quality, but it proved difficult for the designers to learn to take into account Estonian requirements."

Regardless of the difficulties, the project will move forward and be completed by 2030.

Originally Rail Baltica was scheduled to be up and running in 2026.

The economic affairs ministry adds that Idom could have been kept on-track better by simply fining them, Kaunissaare added, while RB Rail AS says it will consider the options on doing this when the project is finished.

Driksna added that money had not been spent on "unfinished projects."

Rail Baltic is the Estonian nomenclature for the Rail Baltica project, which will link Tallinn in the north with the Polish-Lithuanian border in the south, via Riga.

The supervisory board at RB Rail has repeatedly told the management board to agree on realistic design deadlines, while Kristjan Kaunissaare told ERR in an interview published Monday that Estonia has a backup plans.

Ground has been broken in various locations in Estonia in preparation for the line; this includes underpinning required in wetlands, tunnel crossings for wildlife, and intersection areas where the line will cross highways and other transport routes.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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