Rail Baltica bypassing Rīga is unacceptable: Transport Minister

A scenario that might potentially see the construction of the Rail Baltica high-speed train main line along Rīga without entering it is not acceptable, Transport Minister Kaspars Briškens (Progressives) said in an interview with Latvian Radio on November 22.

As reported earlier by LSM and LTV, 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. In addition, the project's design, land expropriation, and construction projects are delayed. Thus, in order to save time and money, a possibility has emerged that the line will pass Rīga without entering it.

Speaking about the cost of the Rail Baltica project and the deadlines for its completion, Briškens said that “there has finally been a certain moment of truth that many things have been politically swept under the carpet over several years.” The Minister said the investment needed for the project is several times larger than initially estimated and criticized the project management mechanism.

Briškens said that to save money and meet the European Commission's requirement to introduce a functioning European-wide rail line between the Baltic States by 2030, seven scenarios have now been developed that could be presented publicly in December.

“Multiple scenarios are not acceptable to me. They also provide for the Rail Baltica baseline to pass Riga, and in fact, a Kaunas-Tallinn line is established where Latvian passengers, at least in the first phase, which is from 2030 until unknown time in the future, get on the high-speed train either in Skulte or Salaspils. It is clear that this is an absolutely unacceptable solution for Latvia,”

Briškens commented, adding that such a scenario would reduce costs, but at the same time would destroy any kind of connectivity that Latvia would get.

Currently, an external consultant is working with the scenarios, the Minister said, stressing that Latvia has not agreed to any of the scenarios. All scenarios are very ambitious in terms of timing, and there is no guarantee that by 2030 it will be possible to construct a railway line even in the narrowed version in which the train passes Rīga.

“In these scenarios, the amount of investment needs to increase significantly,” Briškens noted.

He has asked for an assessment of the scenario which would provide for at least partial integration of Rīga on the railway line.

“It is clear that Latvia's most important priority in the Rail Baltica project is the full integration of Rīga,” Briškens said.

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