Construction of Rail Baltica has begun, the company responsible for the Estonian component of the project has announced.
"It is my great pleasure to announce that the construction of the first stage on the route has begun, the Saustinõmme viaduct on the Tallinn roundabout," Riia Sillave, outgoing board chair of Rail Baltic Estonia told ERR on Tuesday.
The route as a whole was finalized, with approved county plans, last year, with two thirds of the routes, in Harju and Rapla Counties and also from Pärnu County as far as Tootsi, are undergoing major design, Sillave said.
"The rest of the section, that is, as far as the Latvian border, is under negotiation with the bidders, who we hope to reach agreement with early next year," he added.
Rail Baltic Estonia has also successfully conducted an architectural competition for the Ülemiste terminal, announced in July, and hopes to announce the winner next week, with the design then going to the drawing board.
"In a similar way, we will negotiate with the designers and architects of the Pärnu terminal and draw up a contract straight after," Sillave continued.
Sillave added that the project was at a similar development stage south of the border in Latvia, and in Lithuania, noting that the entire project is being treated as a single entity rather than being preceded by construction of junctions, rail bypasses etc.
A completely new route has been chosen rather than using existing rail corridors for the 213-km Estonian stretch, Sillave added.
"An existing corridor is not suitable, since a new one needs to have a faster connection, meaning it needs to be straighter [then current rail corridors]. The existing route can be used just for a two- to three-kilometer stretch," Sillave said.
Sites under natural protection have also been considered, with the route avoiding these, and only a couple of residences will need to be removed to make way for the line, Sillave added.
"With any other alternative - using the existing route, going via Tartu etc., the effects in terms of removing residences would have been much greater," he added.
Sillave said that work is currently running on schedule, with close to 20 highway viaducts and eight more viaducts in local municipalities to be ready by or in 2022.
"From that point, we can start constructing the actual route," Sillave said.
"As at present, there is no reason to re-evaluate construction continuing down to the end of 2026, when Rail Baltic will be in use," she added.
No comment on Riihimäki resignation
Sillave did not directly answer why CEO and management board chairman of RB Rail AS, the joint venture established to serve as central coordinator for the Rail Baltica railroad project across the three Baltic States, Timo Riihimäki, resigned on Monday.
"I can't comment on why Timo is leaving. But thinking of RB Estonia, when I came two years ago, there were only five people where now there are 22. I've built up a working company - the rooms are full of knowhow and project managers and I'm pretty certain these people and their excellent technicians and support staff can make Rail Baltic a reality," he said.
Riihimäki said Monday he was quitting for personal reasons; his last day in the office will be Dec. 19. Sillave herself announced that she was leaving, also for personal reasons, in October, and will finish work at the end of November. Sillave said at the time she would not be taking up a new job post immediately after leaving.
Rail Baltica, also referred to as Rail Baltic, is a double-track, European standard 1,435 mm gauge electrified passenger and freight railroad to be built from Tallinn to the Lithuanian-Polish border. The railroad will be a total of 870 km in length, just over 200 km of which is in Estonia.
Editor: Andrew Whyte