Rail Baltic Estonia: We are on track for the railway to be completed by 2030

  • 2024-06-12
  • BNS/TBT Staff

TALLINN – According to Rail Baltic Estonia, construction is currently on track for the completion of the Rail Baltic rail link by 2030, with construction and all the necessary preparatory work, from tendering to land acquisition, underway. 

Responding to a report published by the national audit offices of the three Baltic countries earlier on Wednesday, Rail Baltic Estonia confirms that, as of today, 22 kilometers of the main line in Estonia is covered by construction contracts, with some construction already underway, 52 kilometers are in the final stages of tendering and a further 30 kilometers are still to be tendered. By the end of 2024, almost half of the main line in Estonia will be covered by construction contracts and construction work will have started on 72 kilometers. 

In addition, the Rail Baltic international terminal at Ulemiste, Tallinn is under construction and almost 30 ecoducts, bridges and crossings have been built or are being built.

Unfortunately, according to Rail Baltic Estonia, the National Audit Office has not taken much interest in how the substantive work on the construction of the railway is actually progressing, which is why the understanding of the institution that audits the life of the state about the development of the railway, its technical aspects, preparation for operation and other circumstances is, in the opinion of the company, superficial.

The cost estimate for the Estonian portion is based on the budget approved by Rail Baltic Estonia -- approximately 3.1 billion euros until 2030, when the connection is expected to be operational in its core functions.

"We repeatedly pointed out to the National Audit Office that their data and cost reference base are outdated, and the total cost should be based on the current budget approved by Rail Baltic Estonia. Throughout the entire period, we have openly informed the European Commission, the government, the parliament, ministries, and the public about the current budget and its changes, so it should not come as a surprise to the National Audit Office," the company wrote.

Rail Baltic Estonia also argues that the National Audit Office's report focuses narrowly on the project costs and does not reflect the direct or socio-economic benefits to society as a whole, nor the broader change in the project's role and importance. Additionally, the Rail Baltic project has a significant impact on employment, with most of new jobs created in the construction and transportation sectors.

Compared to the 2017 cost estimate of 1.8 billion euros, the majority of the increase has been due to inflation, accounting for nearly 40 percent, while approximately 30 percent has been due to adjustments to the project. The latter involves the construction of additional connections and facilities, such as dozens of ecoducts, animal and pedestrian tunnels, and the Parnu and Soodevahe freight stations. Rail Baltic Estonia confirms that they have been continually working to perform the task to optimize the Estonian section.

Currently, the company aims to establish a connection by 2030 that does not compromise on safety or speed, but follows a single-track solution and the initially more modest terminal and local stop designs. The latest construction tender results indicate that price increases have stabilized, and the project is staying within their set budget or even below the control budget.

Based on the decision of the government of Jan. 4, the construction of Rail Baltic in Estonia will be carried out in stages in such a way that in 2030, the Rail Baltic railway connection passing through the whole of Estonia would have been established, which will allow two-way traffic on a single pair of tracks. In addition, in the first stage, the construction of the Ulemiste and Parnu international passenger terminals is to be completed in full volume, but more economically, and all 12 local stops will be provided as a minimum access package.

As of today, the project has received 730 million euros, including the contribution of the state, and a CEF funding round is still ongoing, from which more is expected. The funding is conditional on ensuring a sufficient pace of construction, which is fast enough on the Estonian section today, Rail Baltic Estonia said.