Lithuania accuses Latvia, Estonia of meddling in railway project

With the three Baltic states still trying to piece together their final plans for a rail link crossing their countries, Lithuania's transport minister has accused his partners of attempting to stymie another regional rail project.

Latvia and Estonia’s fears of stronger competition have interfered with Lithuania’s plans to obtain EU financing for the electrification of the Russian standard gauge railway between Lithuania’s border with Belarus and the port of Klaipeda or the so-called IXB corridor, Lithuanian Transport Minister Rimantas Sinkevicius said according to the BNS news service.

Electrification of the IXB corridor could lower freight transportation rates substantially, which would help Lithuania to compete for larger freight volumes, Sinkevicius said, adding that the authorities needed €133 million to finance the project.

“It was the period of the Latvian presidency [of the EU] and Latvia, as we know, wasn’t happy about our wish to electrify that route. Moreover, the geopolitical route as such made it possible to tell the European Commission that the projects are duly financed but the added value is not sufficient hence we’ve not received any money for the IXB corridor,” Sinkevicius told the Lithuanian MPs on Tuesday.

Asked by Eligijus Masiulius, the leader of the Liberal Union, whether it was the Latvians who had interfered with those plans, Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevicius said: “Yes, and also the Estonians.”

In July, Lietuvos Gelezinkeliai (Lithuanian Railways) failed to obtain 197 million euros in support from the CEF fund, including €64 million  for the signaling system of the Lithuanian section of Rail Baltica, the European standard gauge railway, and €133 million for the electrification of the Russian standard gauge railway between Lithuania’s border with Belarus and Radviliskis.

Lietuvos Gelezinkeliai then said that support for the signaling system had not been assigned due to a large number of applications and that the European Commission said to apply for that assistance at a later stage. Support for electrification had been refused since the project had not been included in the list of priority projects eligible for support under this facility.

The European Commission has already assigned €106 million to support the Rail Baltica project in Lithuania.

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