RIGA - The Baltic transport ministers, meeting last week in the Latvian capital, said that Russia should be involved with the Rail Baltica project. They also asked Brussels to recognize the three countries' wide-gauge railroad system.
Estonian Economy and Communication Minister Edgar Savisaar said the Rail Baltica high-speed train could link Tallinn and St. Petersburg, as well as St. Petersburg and Moscow.
The project, which has yet to receive final approval by the European Union, will connect Tallinn, Riga, Kaunas and Warsaw.
Lithuanian Transport and Communications Minister Petras Cesna said it would be beneficial if Rail Baltica had an additional link between Tallinn and St. Petersburg.
Latvia's Transport Minister Ainars Slesers pointed out that Rail Baltica was a "political project" and that high-speed rail systems had been set up throughout Western Europe.
"It would be strange if we did not want to develop such a system in the Baltic region," he said, adding that it was necessary to draw up the rail's routes.
Only then would it be possible to estimate the costs of the project. "Of course, we hope that the bulk of the money will come from EU structural funds."
The minister said it would be possible to complete the Rail Baltica project around 2013 - 2015 if "all goes well."
The Rail Baltica project has been included in the EU's list of priority transport projects.
Also, the three ministers have asked the European Commission to officially recognize the technical standards of the Baltic countries' railroad tracks, which differ from those of Europe.
Slesers said that the ministers had agreed upon and signed a letter.
Janis Eiduks, director of the Latvian Transport Ministry's railway department, explained that the gauge was wider in the Baltic states than in Europe. He pointed out that these technical features help the Baltics work in the eastern direction, as the technical standards of its railway are compatible with railways in Russia, Ukraine and other ex-Soviet states.
He noted that current EU documents apply various "exceptions" to the different railways in the Baltics.