Rail Baltica study flawed

  • 2011-12-22
  • From wire reports

CRITICAL THINKING: Kaido Simmermann complains of misleading claims in the Rail Baltica feasibility study.

TALLINN - Estonian state-owned railway company Eesti Raudtee manager Kaido Simmermann says that based on current information, he would not now take the risk of building the high-speed railway line Rail Baltica, connecting the Baltic States with Poland, reports Postimees. Simmermann said in an interview with Postimees that he sees major deficiencies in the feasibility report on Rail Baltica, which was revealed a few months ago. The first problem he points to is that the 700 km railway line is planned to have a completely new route – the ambitious plan does not foresee using most of the current railway lines.

This means that negotiations will have to be launched with people or companies whose land the new railway would use. That, however, means long disputes and major costs. Simmermann also said that the cargo volumes, cited in the study as a prerequisite for feasibility of the railway, will never move along that line. Yet, for passengers to be able to use the line, cargo transport should pay for its costs.

The railway manager said that while Polish truck drivers might want to choose a path via Estonia to reach northeast Russia, in order to be in the EU as long as possible, railways don’t have that problem and cargo from northeast Russia will never start moving via Tallinn, like the study presumes. Latvian Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis said in an interview with Estonian paper Eesti Paevaleht that Latvia will support the Rail Baltica project when European Transport Commissioner Siim Kallas manages to provide the EU’s 85 percent co-financing, instead of the 60 percent offered so far. “Latvia will support Rail Baltica when there is European Union co-financing amounting to 85 percent.

This is a very big and expensive project that otherwise is not affordable to us,” said Dombrovskis. He said that he talked about this to Kallas, who gave positive feedback. “We expect a new meeting in Latvia in January with Kallas to talk about these details again,” said Dombrovskis. In his interview, Dombrovskis added that Latvians are also ready to comply with the decision of the European Commission in the selection of a location for the liquefied natural gas terminal that has become an issue of conflict between the three Baltic States, but does not rule out the emergence of small local gas terminals. The Latvians do not have enough supporting arguments for unifying the electrical systems of the Baltic States with Europe, instead of Russia, though.