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"Rail Baltica" pirmā kārta Baltijai izmaksās 15,3 miljardus

Latvian PM Siliņa says Rail Baltica project has been too secretive

The newest reports presented June 10 show that the huge Rail Baltica project costs have soared to EUR 15.3 billion for the first stage, twice as much as was talked about last year and miles from the initial estimates. The full project cost after 2030 "could reach 23.8 million".

There are many unanswered questions about the implementation of the Rail Baltica project for Prime Minister Evika Siliņa (New Unity), who said on Monday after a coalition cooperation meeting that the project had been too secretive, even the Cabinet of Ministers had not been informed. 

She also said that she did not believe that the project had been sufficiently well supervised by both the Ministry of Transport and the Cabinet of Ministers. Therefore, before deciding on financing models, it is first necessary to clarify what has been done and what should be paid for and what should not. 

"We have a lot of historical decisions on our table and on my table and I am also interested in how it could be, as the State Audit Office told me, that at some stages decisions are taken by themselves.

"I don't want to be like a billing organization to which you can submit everything that has been built. I want a clear assurance that if we pay for it, the Cabinet can take responsibility for it, not that someone has built it without the Cabinet's approval," said Siliņa.

In view of the rising costs, solutions are being sought in all participating countries, including alternative funding. The most critical period for all Baltic countries is projected to be between 2026 and 2028. Funds committed in 2014 are currently being used. Funding is expected not only from the European Union, where some decisions are still pending but also from all Baltic governments and private investors. Private investors could be interested in transshipment terminals and individual station projects.  

Latvia is considering attracting private investors in the construction of Riga Central Station and Airport Station, according to the project's promoter in Latvia, Eiropas Dzelzceļa līnijas. 

Ēriks Diļevs, CEO of the project implementer Eiropas Dzelzceļa līnijas, said: "All Baltic countries move at the same speed. But looking at the progress in each Baltic country, [the work is] directly linked to legislation. While in Lithuania and Estonia, for example, construction work can start earlier, say after the basic design phase, in Latvia we have to fully complete the design to final details, get all the approvals, and only then can we start construction work. As soon as we have the final construction design in full, we give it to the builder, and in Latvia, the progress will be much higher. Lithuania and Estonia have fragmented the main track further. [They are] going piece by piece. That was their strategy. So I think that at the end of this year, the beginning of next year, we will see that the Latvians will be well ahead."

Due to the massive costs, those in charge have decided to implement only part of the planned project by 2030, primarily a high-speed corridor between the Polish border and Tallinn. 

To reduce construction costs, the first phase will essentially be a single-track road instead of the planned double-track road, but all associated infrastructure, embankments, overpasses, and bridges will be built on two tracks, thus preserving the possibility of expanding the infrastructure capacity in the future. Fewer regional stations are also planned.

Rail Baltica's long-term benefits are expected to outweigh its costs - a cost-benefit analysis cited by the representatives of the project shows that the project will have a direct net benefit of €6.6 billion. 

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