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Baltic countries' agreement on Rail Baltica project to be signed at the beginning of summer

BC, Riga, 08.03.2016.Print version
The Baltic countries have not yet signed agreement on implementation of the Rail Baltica standard-gauge railroad project, the Baltic joint venture RB Rail head Baiba Rubesa told Saeima European Affairs Committee on March 7th, informs LETA.

There have been delays on various levels, explained Rubesa. While all three countries support the project, there have been different opinions about the best ways to implement it. The final agreement is to be reached at the beginning of the summer. According to Rubesa, setting up the joint venture for the Rail Baltica project had also fallen behind schedule, but now the first procurement tenders are already being organized.


It is very important that the entire government supports the Rail Baltica project, said Rubesa, adding that she was perplexed at Transport Minister Uldis Augulis' (Greens/Farmers) statement that feasibility of the project would have to be considered had the European Union not guaranteed major funding for the Rail Baltica project.


It is important to do all the necessary estimates to see whether the project will pay off, said Rubesa, emphasizing nevertheless that a study done by the company AECOM back in 2011 had already proved the project's advantages.


Rubesa said at the Saeima committee's meeting that investments in the amount of EUR 5 billion were planned in the Baltic countries over a period of fifteen years. The main objective is to ensure passenger and freight flows on the north-south axis, as well as improve freight flow from the east to the west.


The main challenges to successful implementation of the project include transparency of procurement procedures, and professional supervision, said Rubesa. She and the Transport Ministry's deputy state secretary Dins Merirands also said that most problems in reaching agreements on Rail Baltica were due to Lithuania's position. Rubesa went on to say that the success of joint ventures in Europe differed vastly, and there had been no perfect joint ventures to date.


In Rubesa's opinion, it will be possible to economize if most procurement tenders were organized by one entity, not three or four. For instance, railroad signaling system should be run by one entity, which would also mean lower prices when inviting tenders.


85 percent of the project's costs are covered by the European Union, while Latvia will have to pay the remaining 15 percent of the project's cost in Latvia, reminded Rubesa. She did not provide exact amounts payable by the state, however.


Furthermore, it is unknown yet how train movement will be organized after the railroad infrastructure is built, but in Rubesa's opinion, it would be the best if there was one operator for all three Baltic countries. She also emphasized that Poland and Finland were interested in the project.

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