Rail Baltica deal to be signed 'by end of January'

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The Prime Ministers of the three Baltic states said Friday they would extend their deadline for signing a binding agreement on the huge Rail Baltica regional railway project - not for the first time.

After a meeting at Maardu in Estonia, the three issued a statement saying they "reiterated the importance of implementing Rail Baltic/Rail Baltica as a fast conventional double track 1435 mm gauge electrified railway line with the maximum design speed of 240km/h on the Route from Tallinn through Pärnu-Riga-Panevezys-Kaunas to the Lithunia-Polish border."

They said they endorsed the Shareholders’ Agreement, signed on 28 October 2014 in Riga, and recognized the establishment of the Joint Venture RB Rail AS. with regard to the successful implementation of the Rail Baltica/Rail Baltic Project.

However while praising their "quick and constructive negotiations" they also agreed "to extend the deadline for submitting the draft of the Intergovernmental Agreement by the end of January 2015 at the very latest" in order to be eligible for EU funding.

They then promised to "submit a joint Rail Baltic/Rail Baltica project application to the European Commission through the newly established Joint Venture (RB Rail AS) by the 26th of February 2015 at the latest."

The timings also refer to "sending a joint support letter to the European Commission... proposing the final joint draft of the support letter to the Prime Ministers´ offices by mid-February 2015 at the very latest" and sending official invitations to both Poland and Finland to join the project "by the end of January 2015 at the very latest."

Under the plan, Poland and Finland would first join as "observers" and then hopefully "as shareholders under equal terms."

“I am glad that the transport connection project has been successfully launched and the activities stay on track. In order to ensure that the joint company of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania could operate more effectively, we agreed with the heads of state and government that an agreement between countries will be concluded by January 2015, at the latest,” Estonian Prime Minister Taavi Roivas promised.

When complete - which according to the €3.7bn plan will be "by 2025", travel times between the Baltic capitals should be slashed, and further links in neighboring countries should eventually make it possible to travel from Berlin to Tallinn by rail, with the option of going on to Helsinki by ferry.

The Baltic states' railway networks are currently of limited size and based on Russian-gauge tracks and mainly outdated Soviet-era rolling stock and infrastructure.

Rail Baltica is among 30 priority transport projects identified by the European Union.



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