New Rīga tram line project on hold for at least a year

The planned construction of a new tram line to serve the Skanste region of Rīga has been put on hold for at least a year, according to the acting head of the municipal transport company Rīgas satiksme, Anrijs Matīss.

Matīss, a former transport minister, was recently handed the job on a temporary basis after a huge corruption scandal saw raids on the Rīgas satiksme offices by the Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau (KNAB) and the arrest of several senior employees, as previously reported by LSM.

Asked December 27 by Latvian Radio about the future of Skanste tram line project, after co-financing of European Union (EU) funds was suspended, Matīss admitted it was unlikely to make any progress for a year at least.

"There is therefore a possible time lag of about a year, but it is essential that there should be a transparent and clear process in the public interest so as not to have any skeletons in the cupboard," Matīss said, insisting that the project would eventually go ahead and that suspending it in the interim was a fairly easy measure as only one contract - for design work - has so far been signed.

Tenders for construction of new tram line, as well as purchase of rolling stock have not been concluded and are likely to be announced again, he added.

The Skanste tram project has been highly controversial from its first suggestion. Intended to provide an economic boost to an under-developed district close to the city center, some opponents have questioned its merits, others have objected to the route chosen and others have voiced doubts about potential corruption in the nearly 100-million euro project which involves a new 3.65 km-long line, reconstruction of three kilometers of existing line plus the purchase of twelve low-floor trams.

Matīss described the situation at Rīgas satiksme as "quite serious" with "great risks" and a need to determine its future direction following a general audit of the municipal company's financial status.

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