Major Rail Baltica contract signed for Latvian mainline construction

On December 21, Rail Baltica national implementer in Latvia, SIA Eiropas Dzelzceļa līnijas, and E.R.B. Rail JV PS concluded a contract for the construction of the Rail Baltica mainline in Latvia, acording to a release from RB Rail.

The international competition was won by a consortium consisting of Eiffage Génie Civil SAS (France), Budimex S.A. (Poland), and Rizzani de Eccher S.p.A (Italy). The construction works for the Rail Baltica mainline outside Riga will involve railway substructures, embankments, road crossings, and railway superstructures, including track and other related infrastructure, over approximately 230 km.

The contract sets the maximum contract value at 3.7 billion euros. Given that the original estimated for cost of the entire Rail Baltica project across all three countries involved – Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia – was 5.8 bilion euros (and is still the figure quoted on the official RB Rail website), this suggests eventual costs are likely to be much higher than anticipated. Latvian Television reported in September that the project costs in Latvia alone could reach 8 billion euros and just a few days ago produced a report outlining the government's approval of the mainline contract.

The specific costs of each section of the works will be calculated after reviewing the construction designs. The client and construction engineer, Italferr (Ferrovie dello Stato Italiane Group), will manage the contract, work, and cost supervision, while the Ministry of Transport will oversee the execution of the contract.

"Preparatory work for the start of mainline construction in Latvia has been completed, including the availability of land, funding for the first phase of construction, design, and an internationally recognized and experienced construction supervisor and contractor," said the release.

Section of planned Rail Baltica track at Iecava
Section of planned Rail Baltica track at Iecava

“The specificity of high-speed railway construction in accordance with European standards requires internationally experienced partners with the qualifications and economic capabilities to undertake such commitments, responsibilities, and risks. Experience shows that Latvian and foreign entrepreneurs form strong partnerships," said Kaspars Vingris, Chairman of the Board of Eiropas Dzelzceļa līnijas.

"Initiating extensive railway construction and attracting experienced construction contractors are crucial steps in building the track by 2030. Equally important it is for securing of further funding because, in the application process, meticulous evaluation is given to the readiness and ability to execute planned works."

The contract for mainline construction in Latvia has already been the source of objections from a Turkish consortium which was one of the bidders. It claims it was unfairly excluded from the competition and described the way in which the tender was decided as a "farce". It also alleged that one of the winning companies, Italy's Rizzani de Eccher S.p.A, continues to work in Russia despite that country's invasion of Ukraine. 

The Rail Baltica project aims to establish a modern rail link that connects the Baltic States of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania with the European rail network. It is also a part of the trans-European transport corridor. 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 should significantly reduce travel times between the Baltic States.

RB Rail AS is a multinational joint venture of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania established to lead and coordinate the implementation of the Rail Baltica project, the first infrastructure development project of this scale in the Baltic region. More:

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