Estonian link approved

  • 2011-09-28

TALLINN - Estonia’s government approved plans to build a high-speed rail link to Latvia under the Rail Baltica project that would link the region to Poland and Western Europe, reports Bloomberg. Estonia expects to start investment in 2018-2019 after the government approved a feasibility study by U.K.-based consultant AECOM, Economy Minister Juhan Parts told a news conference on Sept. 22 in the capital Tallinn. Estonia will seek financing from the European Union’s next budget in 2014, he added.

“We should concentrate on building as many physical connections with Western Europe as possible,” Prime Minister Andrus Ansip said at the same news conference. Lithuanian Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius and Latvia’s Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis both support the project, he added.

Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania - three former Soviet Baltic republics - have sought to align themselves with Europe after the fall of communism 20 years ago, joining the EU in 2004. They are seeking to bolster road, rail and energy connections with the 27-nation bloc after they exited recessions in 2008-2009.
Estonia’s state-owned Eesti Raudtee rail company plans to create a joint venture with its Latvian and Lithuanian counterparts to develop the project, Parts said.

Siim Kallas, the European Commission’s deputy president, says that the project of the next stage of Rail Baltica should be “hurried up,” to make sure it was included in the new EU transport plan, reports National Broadcasting.
Kallas expressed hope that in addition to Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland would expect progress with the project.
Transport is at a more important place than ever in the EU budgetary period that starts in 2014. The deputy president said that a new financial measure to connect Europe is being created for development of infrastructure and support for Rail Baltica could be applied from there. The project prescribes building a new European rail width railway from Tallinn to the Lithuanian-Polish border.

“If we want to do anything, it has to be done rather quickly, and then it should be included in the new main networks plan. It is important, since then all the possibilities of using Cohesion Fund money will open and it is possible to get a share of the package. But for that, the will of three Baltic States has to exist,” said Kallas.