TALLINN – Rail Baltic will be completed by the intended deadline and there is no reason to fear the loss of European Union money, Estonia's Minister of Economic Affairs and Infrastructure Taavi Aas told the parliament's state budget control select committee on Monday.
Aas was speaking to members of the Riigikogu committee, who questioned whether Rail Baltic could be built at the same time as major road construction projects.
Besides, an audit by the National Audit Office published last week suggested the target date for the project would be missed and cost limits exceeded, which could result in claims to pay back EU support.
Aas told lawmakers that there was no cause for concern.
"Just as the representatives of the Rail Baltic Estonian company said here today, the schedule is set up and all the options are in place. As for getting more expensive, it will become clearer after the procurements. Two procurements have taken place, one as predicted and the other considerably cheaper," the Center Party minister said according to the English-language news portal of public broadcaster ERR.
There is also no need to worry about the possible revocation of the European subsidy funds, the minister added.
Chairman of the committee Jurgen Ligi said that even though the ministry's arguments were convincing, the question arises how four-lane highways to Tartu, Narva and Parnu are to be built at the same time.
"This does not seem realistic. It is probably not feasible. Each item should be calculated separately," the Reform Party MP said.
Isamaa MP Aivar Kokk however was much more critical, saying that the project is two years behind schedule already, which means more investments will be necessary in the coming few years, simultaneously with the onset of intense road construction.
"We have decided that 2+2 roads will be built from Tartu, Narva and Pärnu to Tallinn. If we invest almost a billion euros at one time in road construction -- usually it is between 300 and 500 million euros -- there will be a shortage of labor, a shortage of construction materials and prices will increase," Kokk said.
Kokk also said he sees a problem in management, as evidenced by the rapid change of managers at RB Rail.