De Facto

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De Facto

(Zīmju valodā). DeFacto

Ātrvilciens Rīgai var "paiet garām"

Rail Baltica project scrambles to stay on track

The Rail Baltica railway project will cost significantly more than originally planned – around 8 billion euros rather than the 5.8 billion euros officially announced as the cost, reports Latvian Television's De Facto investigative show.

In addition, the project's design, land expropriation, and construction projects are delayed, De Facto said.

The main financial backer of the project, the European Commission, requires that in 2030 there should be a functioning trans-European rail line between the Baltic States. In order to accomplish this, planners are now looking for what could be sacrificed to save time and money. In almost all of these scenarios, the planned new railway bridge in Rīga is to be abandoned.

"Whether this bridge will be built in the first phase by 2030 is, of course, currently being estimated, at present, scenario analysis is underway. In the long term, I believe that this capacity is necessary so that we can ensure full-fledged movement through Riga," said transport minister Kaspars Briškens (Progressives).

According to De Facto, at least seven different scenarios are being considered to save time and money, including one that sees the new line avoiding central Rīga altogether.

"Obviously, we will also look at the pace of construction. We see which phase we can build faster, which one has less cost or less complexity. Summing up all these factors, we accordingly come to the conclusion which works we can manage to complete by 2030, and for what amount," said the technical director of the RB Rail joint venture in Latvia Ēriks Diļevs.

Unlike its neighbors Estonia and Lithuania, Latvia started construction works with two large infrastructure objects – stations at Riga Airport and the Riga Central Station. However, it is no longer clear whether the track will even pass through central Riga in the first phase of construction. 

"Of course, looking from today's perspective, if we had to decide now, then probably more emphasis will be placed on the construction of the main line, but at the same time we understand that the design has also been significantly delayed, and we have actually not had the opportunity to start the construction of the main line due to this delay," said Briškens.

In fact, the design of the route that goes through Riga has not even started yet. These works are delayed by several years. In September, a report to the government indicated that the contracted company from Spain "is not able to fully fulfill its obligations". Now the contract with them has been terminated, with the agreement of both parties, claimed the representative of RB Rail.

"By December, in fact in the middle of December, we plan to come with an informative report to the Cabinet of Ministers, where we will propose a new management structure, with precise division of responsibilities, with the exact way in which we will monitor project risks, how we will inform all parties involved, including Finance the ministry on financial flows," Briškens promises.

If there is no connection operating between Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia within seven years, there are risks of losing huge sums of European funding, which are earmarked to cover 85% of costs.

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