Investments lay foundation for future
by Rihards Peders, Deputy director-general, State-owned stock company
Investments in industry's development is a key precondition for attaining goals defined in the National Transport Development Program and Latvian railways' successful competition within transportation service market in the Baltic region.
Most of the cargo transported through the territory of Latvia moves along the East-West railway corridor, one of the links in the European transport system, therefore its modernisation program has become one of the national priorities. Latvia has managed to get the East-West corridor project included in the priority list of Trans-European transport network in the Baltic region. The railway line from the Ventspils port on Latvia's western coast through Jelgava, Krustpils, Rezekne and further to the East towards the Russian border has been recognised as one of the network's components.
Photo: Latvijas Dzelzcels
The money for development of the main transit corridor comes both from Latvijas Dzelzcels funds and the Latvian state budget as well as from bank loans and other available EU funds. Investments in railway infrastructure in 1999-2003 totalled 131 million lats (about 187 million euros).
The most significant future railway investment projects are the following:
• renovation of the Latvian path of the East-West railway corridor;
• renovation of a technological line at the Riga Rail Track Welding Centre;
• construction of the Juras parks terminal and crossover tracks at the Ventspils rail junction;
• instalment of a microprocessor-based centralised communication system at the Riga passenger station and the Tornakalns station.
Construction of the Juras parks terminal built in 2000-2003 has been one of the biggest investment projects by Latvijas Dzelzcels in recent years. The new "sorting station" has eight receiving-dispatch tracks, each with effective length of at least 850 metres, crossover tracks and other technical installations. The implementation of the project has increased the annual turnover capacity of the Ventspils rail junction to 33 million tons from the previous 19 million tons.
Under technical development plan for infrastructure improvement in 2003 to 2007, a number of projects totalling 242 million lats (about 346 million euros) will be carried out. The necessary funding will come from the following sources:
• Latvijas Dzelzcels funds – 40 million lats (about 57 million euros);
• Latvian state budget – 34 million lats (about 49 million euros);
• the EU ISPA fund – 65 million lats (about 93 million euros);
• other loans – 35 million lats (about 50 million euros);
• the EU Cohesion Fund – 68 million lats (about 97 million euros).
The projects to be implemented in the near future include construction of a new receiving facility at the Rezekne-II railway station, construction of the second set of rail tracks on the stretch Riga-Krustpils, further upgrading of telecommunications and information systems, electric power installations, etc.
Photo: Latvijas Dzelzcels
There are certain specific features of the Latvian railways' development to be taken into account in EU-financed projects, e.g. rail gauge and rolling stock are different from those used in Europe, absence of a common border with EU member states using different rail gauge, different signalling principles, etc. All these will be taken into consideration in order to ensure that technical aspects of Latvian railways meet the directive 2001/16/ΕΡ requirements and Latvian railways become an integral part of the EU railway network.