Transport ‘guru’ Augulis speaks before thinking

  • 2011-04-13
  • From wire reports

RIGA - European Parliament member and chairman of the board of All for Latvia-For Fatherland and Freedom/LNNK (VL-TB/LNNK), Roberts Zile, believes that the Rail Baltica railway project and a high-speed railroad project between Riga and Moscow are “rival projects,” says spokesperson for the European Conservatives and Reformists’ Group  Rolands Petersons, reports news agency LETA. This is a rebuke to Latvian Transport Minister Uldis Augulis’ (Union of Greens and Farmers) and President Valdis Zatlers’ previously announced statements that the Riga-Moscow project will not compete with Rail Baltica.

“If we look at both projects from the point of view of European funding and political resolve, then it is obvious that the projects will compete with each other. However, the Riga-Moscow project will not receive European funding, and this is what high-ranking Latvian officials have not yet realized. European Transport Commissioner Siim Kallas previously clearly stated that the Riga-Moscow project has a zero chance of receiving EU funds; however, it may bring down the Rail Baltica project,” warned Zile.

Russian Transport Minister Igor Levitin, who was on an official visit to Latvia last week, said in an interview with the newspaper Telegraf that Russia sees potential in the high-speed railroad project between Riga and Moscow. He predicts that this route will be popular among passengers, since it will connect Russia with the European Union.

Last year, trains between both capitals carried 268,000 passengers, which is 12 percent more than in 2009. “Experts point out that the current number of passengers is insufficient, and cannot justify the construction of the high-speed railroad. However, taking into account the long-term perspective and the importance of this project to Russia and the EU, the project will remain on the agenda during the first part of this year,” explained Levitin.

It is important that the EU also participate in the project alongside Latvia and Russia, which would ensure additional investments from EU funds,” believes Levitin, as he looks to EU funds to build the rail line to Moscow. He agreed with Augulis that the high-speed railroad project between Riga and Moscow is “economically more justified” than the Rail Baltica project. Neither minister, however, has as of yet produced any analysis to support their claims.