Ilves Blows Whistle for Railroads Ahead of Latvia Visit

By Steve Roman (June 4, 2012)

In the run-up to his three-day state visit to Latvia this week, President Toomas Hendrik Ilves has once again put the spotlight on rail transport, highlighting its historic role as a force for Baltic unity.

“On October 10, 1919, Estonian armored trains arrived in Riga. During the fighting for Latvia’s freedom, trains played a crucial role,” he told the Riga-based Latvijas Avize newspaper in an interview published today.

Ilves had already made headlines by announcing that he would be traveling by passenger train for the state visit, which begins tomorrow.

The journey is more typically taken by car or plane due to the poor rail connection, however part of Ilves’ agenda involves discussion of the Rail Baltic project, which could eventually solve that issue.

“If we talk about the unity of the Baltic countries, it is important to carry out joint projects and invest in them. One such project is Rail Baltic, a high-speed line which will stretch from Finland though the Baltic states to Warsaw. The project will be a great expression of cooperation between the Baltic states,” he said.

Ilves also pointed out that the first state visit to Latvia by an Estonian president in 1935 was undertaken by rail.

While in Latvia, Ilves will meet with his counterpart Andris Berzins, Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis, Speaker of Parliament Solvita Aboltina and Riga Mayor Nils Usakovs, reported.