Latvia announces start of Rail Baltica mainline construction

Representatives of the Rail Baltica project said May 22 that construction of the high-speed rail project's mainline had begun on May 21.

"Latvia has reached another milestone in the Rail Baltica project by beginning construction of its mainline. On 21 May the Rail Baltica team, representatives from the European Commission and international partners from France, Italy, Poland, Lithuania and Estonia gathered in Rīga. They marked the occasion by sending messages to future generations through a time capsule to be embedded at the construction site," said a release from RB Rail, the joint venture responsible for the major infrastructure project.

The precise nature of the messages to future generations was not specified.  

“Rail Baltica brings us a step closer to the “Europe of trains” mentioned by French President Emmanuel Macron, that we are building, for a concrete, powerful, sustainable, and united Europe. It is an honour for France to be able to showcase the knowledge and expertise of its industrial champions in the rail sector, together with Latvian and European partners,” said Minister of Foreign Trade of France Franck Riester at the event.

The joint venture ERB Rail JV, commissioned by the Rail Baltica national implementing body in Latvia – Eiropas Dzelzceļa līnijas – will oversee the construction of approximately 230 km of the mainline railway. This  ncludes 175 engineering structures, 11 animal crossings, 42 viaducts, 81 road bridges, and 32 rail bridges.

This international consortium, registered in Latvia, is composed of three of Europe’s leading engineering and construction companies specializing in road, railway, steel structures, and major concrete works: Eiffage Génie Civil SAS (France), Budimex S.A. (Poland), and Rizzani de Eccher S.p.A. (Italy).

The construction will proceed in sections, beginning with the first set of works in the Bauska region in southern Latvia near Iecava, where the future Rail Baltica infrastructure maintenance facility will be located.

The maintenance center will cover an area of approximately 16.5 hectares. These infrastructure maintenance points will serve as logistic bases during the construction of the Rail Baltica mainline.

This year 150 km of the Rail Baltica mainline is expected to be under construction [across all three Baltic states – the total length of the project is 870 km].

Rail Baltica will be a fully electrified, double-track railway with a standard gauge of 1435 mm and will be equipped with ERTMS (European Rail Traffic Management System) and designed to meet European standards. With a design speed of 249 km/h, Rail Baltica will significantly reduce travel times between the Baltic States and major European cities. 

Originally slated to be completed by 2026 at a cost of 5.8 billion euros, it now has a tentative launch date of 2030 and the current estimate for the total cost of Rail Baltica is 7.8 billion euros – though given current trends it would not be surprising if this figure is revised upwards again in the future. The project has also seen a high turnover of senior executives working on it.

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