ROLLING AHEAD: Preparations are made for Rail Baltica.
TALLINN - The Rail Baltica northern European rail corridor project is now closer to reality than ever, believes European Transport Commissioner Siim Kallas, reports LETA. Kallas said in an interview with Estonian national television ETV, though, that the project schedule was tight and that it was pressed for time.
“Financing rules have been agreed upon. This means that co-financing can reach 85 percent, which is very high. There is no such high co-financing in other infrastructure projects,” said Kallas.
He expressed hope that all three Baltic States would reach agreement on the Rail Baltica project. “Poland has confirmed to me that they will do their part. The Finns are also very much interested,” said Kallas.
Estonian Economy and Communications Minister Juhan Parts said that details of founding a joint venture for Rail Baltica would be discussed with Latvia and Lithuania in the coming weeks and in August hopefully it would be legally formed.
Parts said that for Estonia, designing the railway route was very important. It is not a desk job but requires communicating with all parties to find the best solution.
On July 30, representatives from Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Poland and Finland agreed on creating a joint-venture for the Rail Baltica high-speed rail project, the on-line edition of the Estonian newspaper Postimees reported. The transport ministers of all five countries plan to sign a joint declaration during a meeting in Vilnius in September.
The aim of the Rail Baltica joint-venture is to coordinate the preparations for building the railway line, preparing financing applications of the project to the European Commission, harmonizing legislation, as well as compiling the project’s business plan, etc.
It was agreed that in every Baltic country, the infrastructure of Rail Baltica will belong to that specific country where it is located. Each shareholder will contribute 650,000 euros a year over the next four years.
Estonian Economy and Communications Minister Juhan Parts said that the agreement on Rail Baltica is a very welcome one. The joint venture will initially belong to the three Baltic States, with Finland and Poland having the opportunity to join it.
As reported, the implementation of “Rail Baltica” project could cost 1.27 billion euros to Latvia and 3.68 billion euros to the Baltic States altogether. The European Commission could co-fund 85 percent of the project’s costs.
Economic benefits in sight
Lithuanian city Kaunas is putting hopes that Rail Baltica will bring with it faster economic development. Kaunas will be the only point within the modern transport axes in the Baltics where the Russian gauge track will meet with the European one. By 2015, when the track for Rail Baltica most likely reaches Kaunas, more rapid development of the city is expected, as Kaunas becomes more accessible and more known internationally.
This was the topic of discussion on the development of Rail Baltica held in Kaunas City Municipality on Aug. 1. The discussion was attended by the representatives of municipalities, the Ministry of Transport and Communications, the European Commission, the European Parliament, Lithuanian Railways and other related institutions.
“There is no doubt that Kaunas railway station will get more passengers and Kaunas will get more tourists. In general, a trend is observed that traveling by train becomes more popular. Lithuania observes it as well. We only have to make sure that Kaunas would not become the last station of the route, that European gauge track would connect Kaunas, Riga and Tallinn,” said Andrius Kupcinskas, mayor of Kaunas Municipality, during the roundtable discussion.
The Rail Baltica project has been granted the status of major economic significance by a Government Resolution and the status of national importance by the Seimas. Rail Baltica is a priority transport infrastructure project at the European Union level as well.
Rail Baltica is a railway line with the standard European gauge and a design speed of 240 km/h, linking Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Finland.