Rail Baltica main-line construction starts this year in all Baltic states

Ongoing Rail Baltica work in central Riga earlier this year.
Ongoing Rail Baltica work in central Riga earlier this year. Source: ERR

Work on pan-Baltic high-speed link Rail Baltica's main line begins in earnest this year, ETV news show "Aktuaalne kaamera" (AK) reported from Latvia Monday.

Marko Kivila, acting head of the Riga-based joint venture RB Rail, told AK that the three Baltic states: "Have chosen different approaches to construction strategy," which in part will reflect the different topography of the three countries.

"If we look at what is being carried out in Estonia, these consist mainly of viaducts and wildlife crossings, whereas Lithuania, contracts have been signed for the construction of the Neris River bridge on top of the main route, as well as for the construction of 28km of the main route itself," Kivila went on.

Rail Baltica, also known as Rail Baltic, is 85 percent funded by the EU, with the remainder coming from the domestic budgets of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. It will link Tallinn, in the North, to the Lithuanian-Polish border in the South (in fact beyond, to Warsaw), in so doing speeding up land travel to "continental" Europe.

The Rail Baltica route. Source: Rail Baltica

The changed security situation has also made its impact known in terms of potential funding, Kivila added.

"In the light of recent events in Ukraine, the EU has developed a new source of funding for the construction of facilities which have defensive functions. In this case, the [domestic] contribution is significantly higher, at 50 per cent, though this is one example of potential further sources of funding that could be used in the construction of Rail Baltica," Kivila went on.

The Riga-based RB Rail has faced criticism over poor performance in its procurement activity; some of this relates to design issues where procurements have taken place outside the three Baltic States, and a lack of context on how legislation and other aspects work in the region.

Kivila put design delays at around two years, in the worst-case scenario

"Perhaps the client put too many risks into the designer's portfolio, then these risks materialized," he opined.

Central Riga and its rail station itself is being transformed by the infrastructure projects (pictured), AK added – in Tallinn, the planned terminal will be on the edge of town, at Ülemiste, close to the airport.

On the other hand, the stretch between the Latvian capital and Pärnu, the first sizeable Estonian town that Rail Baltica reaches if traveling in a northerly direction, have been somewhat deemphasized, AK reported.

Nonetheless, Kivila said that as of now the joint venture of the Baltic states seems more unified, while the rough edges of differences between Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania and their approach to the project seem to have been smoothed out, as it transitions from the theorteical drawing-board into actuality.

In Estonia, engineering work has already long been underway in, for instance, underpinning boggy ground ahead of the line itself being constructed, and of routing interfaces between rail and road.

As things stand, the high-speed link is due to start work 2030, four years later than the original estimate of 2026, while the final bottom line can be estimated after the completion of major projects along its entire length, by year end 2024.

Should a Tallinn-Helsinki tunnel ever become reality, this could extend the link even further North, while it can also be seen in the context of greater North-South links across the whole of the Central and Eastern European region, covered by the Three Seas region (the proposed Intermarium union of yore).


Follow ERR News on Facebook and Twitter and never miss an update!

Editor: Andrew Whyte, Merili Nael

Source: 'Aktuaalne kaamera', reporter Ragnar Kond.

Hea lugeja, näeme et kasutate vanemat brauseri versiooni või vähelevinud brauserit.

Parema ja terviklikuma kasutajakogemuse tagamiseks soovitame alla laadida uusim versioon mõnest meie toetatud brauserist: