Following the failure to find a suitable bidder for the construction tender to build the Ülemiste terminal of the planned Rail Baltica high-speed rail link, Estonia has announced calls for several smaller tenders in order to reduce the overall cost of the project, says Ahti Kuningas, incoming secretary general of the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications.
In August, it emerged that only one bid had been received for the construction of the Ülemiste common terminal, from Italian company Rizzani de Eccher at a price of €346 million, almost double the amount estimated by British partners Zaha Hadid.
"That tender was cancelled. We have in fact already announced a new tender but this time we are approaching it in a different way - we are dividing it into separate parts. We ourselves are (now acting as) managers of a big project. Whereas before we were ordering the entire project from one contractor, now it is split between five. The project is the same," Kuningas said on ERR politics webcast ERR politics webcast "Otse uudistemajast" on Wednesday.
According to Kuningas, the main reason why the tender for the construction of the entire terminal was so expensive was due to Russia's war in Ukraine.
"The tender was such that (the successful bidder) would have completed the terminal in its entirety: all the foundations, the railway tunnels and then the superstructure, with a building designed by architectural firm Zaha Hadid," he said.
"As it was going to be a five-year project, the company said that it couldn't predict what the prices of concrete and iron would be [over such a long period] and so added a coefficient in there. Even by itself, if you deduct that coefficient, the price would be around €200 million, and that's still expensive," Kuningas explained.
"As the building accounts for around €80 million of the terminal's construction costs, and the railway lines and tunnels come to approximately €120 million, it is not possible to make particularly big savings even by changing the building's design," he said.
"Well, it would be possible to save a little, but not as much as €200 million. Most of the money is going on the things that we have to have there no matter what– such as the escalator from the T1 shopping center," Kuningas explained.
"But yes, now we're ordering different materials from different suppliers. To reduce that risk, so that they don't have to factor that risk into this contract," he said.
When asked if plans for the roofs of the platforms, which currently do not provide much shelter for passengers from the rain, were likely to remain unchanged, Kuningas said, that people will be able to wait for trains inside the terminal building.
"There will be a building and it will have waiting rooms inside. There will be screens in the building to show when trains are arriving, and then, when your train arrives, you will walk onto the train. Yes, it's not the kind of solution where the train comes into a tunnel in the station or into a separate building, it's still a transit station."
According to Kuningas, Estonia is still counting on Rail Baltic being ready by 2030. Even if Latvia fails to complete its part of the project to connect the Estonian border to Riga in time, at the very least it should still be possible to catch a high-speed train from Tallinn to Pärnu by then.
Editor: Michael Cole