Lithuanian PM sees budget as key challenge for Rail Baltica

  • 2024-05-13
  • BNS/TBT Staff

VILNIUS – Lithuanian Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte says on Monday that Rail Baltica's main challenge is its budget, so the Baltic states must show "the maturity of the project" when negotiating with the European Commission for additional funding for the European standard-gauge railway.  

"It's important that we continue to work together to carry out the Rail Baltica project. In Lithuania, work is moving at full speed," Simonyte told reporters after meeting with her Estonian and Latvian counterparts in Vilnius.

"We all need to keep up the momentum so that we can justify our request for further funding for the construction of the railway line and the implementation of the project by 2030," the Lithuanian prime minister said.

"Obviously, the project's budget is the main challenge, but for us to be able to negotiate on additional funding, we first have to show the maturity of the project. (We have to show) that the project is really on track on all sides, and that not only we (Lithuania) are building the line to Latvia, but also that concrete construction work has begun in Latvia and Estonia as well," she said. 

Simonyte said the construction of European standard-gauge tracks is the key component of the Rail Baltica project.

"The key task is the tracks, not the stations or everything else that has to be there around the railway," the Lithuanian leader said. 

"We must make all the effort possible to move forward so that we can enter negotiations with a good business case, saying that we've done a lot of work in a short period of time," she said. 

Simonyte acknowledged that in implementing the project, the Baltic countries "might have wasted considerable time on what weren't the most productive discussions". 

"There was a time when it was possible to carry out work that is very important for the implementation of the project, such as design, but the work ran very much behind schedule, which caused many delays and coincided with a significant increase in raw material prices, and generally a completely different price situation than when the project was being considered ten years ago," she said.

Latvian Prime Minister Evika Silina said that military mobility has expanded the requirements for the Rail Baltica infrastructure and that the Baltic countries have to remain united in their talks with the European Commission on financial support for the rail project. 

"We as leaders sometimes have to be very practical, but it's good that three women always can find some practical solutions to any challenges," Silina told reporters in Vilnius. 

"And I believe we will be very determined to go on with the project," she added. 

Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas said that Estonia is planning to launch the construction of the first 74-kilometer section of Rail Baltica, one-third of the railway line in the country, this year. 

"Our goal is complete Rail Baltica by 2030. To reach this goal, we must all stay on track," she said. "We will also progress on the main passenger terminal and other options like bridges and viaducts."

The three Baltic prime ministers met in Vilnius on Monday as Lithuania takes over the presidency of the Baltic Council of Ministers.

Rail Baltica will connect Tallinn, Parnu, Riga, Panevezys, Kaunas, Vilnius and Warsaw, including a 392-kilometre stretch in Lithuania. 

The Lithuanian Transport Ministry says the entire Rail Baltica project linking the Baltic countries to Europe is scheduled to be completed by 2030.