EC representative: Rail Baltica must be done by 2030 with or without Rīga

By 2030, Rail Baltica has to start transporting freight and passengers, with or without connection to Riga Central Station, Catherine Trautmann, coordinator of the North Sea Baltic TEN-T core network corridor of the European Commission, said in an interview with Latvian Radio on February 7.

Trautmann said in a conversation with Latvian Radio correspondent Artjoms Konohovs that it is necessary to stop talking and start doing things. 

Catherine Trautmann: The project is evolving, and for me, that is a key prerequisite for being able to launch implementation. We are in a new situation that brings new hardship. All major projects face the same challenges - cost increases, security issues. We work in a special place and it is therefore important that appropriate companies participate in the project. All this makes it possible to organize the implementation of the project in realistic phases with limited cost increases, with good technical design and its implementation into life – this is what I am focusing on at the moment.

No major project can be carried out immediately. It only happens in fairy tales, not in life. Therefore, there is now a lot of discussion, because there is also some hesitation and reflection in the Baltic States.

It's all normal. This is happening both in the Baltics, in Poland, and everywhere else, including in my country, France, because everywhere now we need to find money. The question, therefore, is how to find the means and how to be quick enough to find new solutions. We'll find them.

It is important to me that it is possible to continue to apply for funding from the Connecting Europe Facility under the same conditions, as this instrument allows 85% of eligible costs to be covered by the European Union budget.

The main route is therefore the most important of what is currently possible to finance.

This does not mean that stations, airports, and regional stations will not be connected. But if we want such funding to continue to be available for this project, then we need to show that we can achieve a tangible result and that the main line will carry passengers in 2030.

Artjoms Konohovs: So 2030 is still the deadline for realizing the project?

Yes, of course! And so it will, because it's possible to do that. After that, we will be ready to move on, but that deadline is very important.

I see preparations underway in three Member States, and also in [Baltic joint venture] RB Rail, for the construction of railways, stations and everything else. The European Commission has not changed its priorities, but the context has changed enormously. [..]

You say the main line should be built first and then the rest?

Yes, by 2030. But that doesn't automatically mean the rest should happen later. This will depend on external circumstances that cannot be predicted. We need to continue to maintain the interest of businesses so that they want to participate in this project so that there is enough competition in the tenders. This will allow for better prices. [..]

I asked you a question about what should happen first and later because there has recently been a big discussion in Latvia about whether the connection to Rīga should be established immediately or later and whether the Central station, which is now being rebuilt, will not be left without high-speed trains. What is your view?

Yes, just imagine a station without trains! We need both the station and trains. But of course, if there are any temporary solutions, then we will try to find the most optimal option.

And of course, Riga station and Riga airport also have to be connected, [..] but it costs a lot. It is also difficult because Riga station is located in the middle of the city.

But construction has already begun and will therefore also require further steps. So when I emphasized the main line in 2030, that doesn't mean there won't be anything else to do. It will depend on who is eligible for funding. But everything has its limitations. I therefore tell my Baltic colleagues to take part. Let them be confident in themselves and offer the best solutions.

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