TALLINN – Responding to an inquiry by the forest conservation NGO Eesti Metsa Abiks, the Estonian Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications has said that it is not possible to change the planned route of the Rail Baltic so that it would run along the existing railway route via Tartu or Parnu.
"In order to do this, it would be necessary to review all decisions both at the national and international level and start a completely new spatial planning process, because the 2018 spatial plans found that a course of the Rail Baltic route along the existing Tallinn-Parnu 1,520 mm gauge route was largely not justified, and previous analyses did not support the construction of Rail Baltic via Tapa and Tartu," Sander Salmu, deputy secretary general of the ministry for transport, said in the letter.
The official explained that the route in Estonia has been established with county plans. The fundamental choice of the route running from Tallinn via Parnu to the Latvian border is defined by a government decision of 2012, by which the national spatial plan "Estonia 2030+" was approved.
Preparation of the county plans started in 2013, and the minister of public administration established the spatial plans with his orders of 2018. The suitability of the new railway route in the northern sections has also been confirmed in the form of environmental impact assessment reports, which have been declared compliant.
Although the Supreme Court in 2020 partially annulled the Parnu County Plan of the route with regard to three sections and the resumption of the county planning procedure is underway, according to Salmu, this does not affect the location of the route in the city of Parnu or the choice made that the route will run through Parnu.
Eesti Metsa Abiks approached the ministry in April, expressing its concern that the construction of the Rail Baltic railway on the new route will lead, among other things, to irreversible damage to the natural environment of Estonia. The NGO also finds that the global economic crisis will reduce the outlook for the Estonian economy, including the movement of goods and passengers by rail, put a heavy burden the the state budget in all sectors administered by the state, and strongly call into question the feasibility of the costs of building and later maintaining the new railway line built in parallel to existing routes.
"We believe that in today's international force majeure situation, it is necessary to consider stopping the construction of Rail Baltic on the planned route and redirect the Rail Baltic project to the existing railway route through Tartu or Parnu," said Helena Eenok, member of the board of the NGO.