Latvian Railways short of staff and maintenance funds

The situation in the railway sector is concerning since the volume of transit freight has decreased significantly. Latvian Railways (LDz) also face a staff shortage in parts of Latvia. The maintenance of infrastructure will require support of tens of millions of euros from the State, LDz board member Andris Maldups told Latvian Radio August 17.

There are currently 2,500 fewer employees at LDz than there were in 2019. People move away from work in the company because it is unable to secure competitive pay, there is a shortage of employees in certain areas, so they are brought to work from the outermost regions.

For two years, the Latvian Railways have needed additional financial support from the State to maintain the railway infrastructure. This would require tens of millions of euros, said Maldups.

“The railroad, first of all, has to work to attract any cargo. As a result, of all that is not sanctioned, each tonne is important to us. In any case, we have the largest markets, from the railway point of view, in the East. Russia, Belarus, Central Asia, including China [..]. The second is inland transport, which is also very important with core groups: grain and timber. Whether we will be able to develop this direction depends on whether we will succeed in creating a model for infrastructure charges or compensation so that this domestic transport can be transferred from road to rail in some part,” said Maldups.

Transport Minister Tālis Linkaits pointed out that transport by rail is a more environmentally friendly mode of transport. In order to develop this, Latvian Railways will have to promote domestic transport, to convince the authorities that they will be fast and efficient enough.

The role of domestic transport has increased as transit cargo flow has declined. The Minister confirmed that sound state funding for the maintenance of railway infrastructure must be ensured.

"We are accustomed to the state maintaining the road network, and there are eternal discussions about not enough funding there either. But in fact, rail infrastructure is also our strategic infrastructure.

Whether there is freight or not, the railway infrastructure itself must be provided for, because it is of strategic importance. In passenger transport, changes are coming as the new electric trains will soon be in place, battery trains in 2026. Infrastructure and guaranteed state funding is needed to transfer people from the car and other means of transport to the train, "Linkaits said.

Discussions in the government are expected in the near future.

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