Ilves: Rail Baltica Project is Very Important for Estonia

By Juhan Tere (October 17, 2011)

In an interview to Latvian newspaper Diena, Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves said that the high-speed rail project Rail Baltica is very important for Estonia.

Speaking about Baltic relations, Ilves pointed out that the cooperation level must be measured by very material categories – ”how much we invest, and how much are we prepared to invest in join projects”.

”We are very interested in constructing joint infrastructure models. And if we construct these, there will be investments needed from all of the countries involved,” the Estonian president said.

As an example he mentioned the Rail Baltica project. Estonia has completed its initial Rail Baltica project, and is moving forward to the second phase of the project. Ilves added that the European Commission, Poland and Lithuania have also expressed much interest in this project, writes LETA.

”You just had your elections, now we will wait for more active involvement from Latvia,” Ilves said.

As the Estonian president explained, the next step would be to organize a joint cooperation concept, involving the specific companies that will implement this project in the Baltics. Poland will also be involved, as the idea is to connect our railroad network to Europe. This is one of Estonia’s priorities – connecting to the European transport infrastructure through Warsaw.

As reported, the high-speed railroad project Rail Baltica can be carried out only if the European Union allocates at least 60% co-funding and if it is not transferred to Latvia’s Cohesion envelope, Transport Minister Uldis Augulis (Union of Greens and Farmers) admitted during a press conference this past Thursday.

Augulis explained that the project would cost EUR 1.27 billion (LVL 889 million) to Latvia, and the country cannot afford to spend such financial means on a single infrastructure project. The European TEN-T program will fund only 10 to 20% of the project’s expenses.

It is clear, that such project cannot pay off, since there are no cargoes in this direction. It is also necessary to carefully consider whether it is worth spending EUR 1.2 billion on a single train stop in Riga, the minister pointed out.

LETA also reported, the most viable implementation of Rail Baltica would cost EUR 1.27 billion (LVL 889 million) to Latvia and EUR 3.68 billion (LVL 2.57 billion) to the Baltic States altogether, according to a study carried out by the British consulting company Aecom Ltd., “” was informed by the Transport Ministry.

Aecom Ltd. studied the route Tallinn-Parnu-Riga-Panevezys-Kaunas. The Baltic States agreed on it this past March. However, the company admits that the project’s future will also depend on various political aspects.

Several other Baltic cities that are not directly connected with the 1,435-milimeter railroad – Tartu, Daugavpils, Ventspils, Jelgava, Liepaja, Siauliai, Klaipeda and Vilnius, would be connected to it using the existing 1,520-milimeter railroad lines.