30 protest against building Rail Baltica tunnel

About 30 people staged a picket in the center of Rīga on Tuesday against plans to construct a tunnel in the suburb of Āgenskalns as part of Rail Baltica II European-gauge railway project, reported the BNS news agency.

Protesters told BNS that their main objection to the tunnel's construction was that the tunnel would run under their homes.

Ēriks Pūle, the leader of Agenskalns Our Home, addressed the protesters using a loudspeaker. He said that the tunnel project would infringe on residents' property rights, that it would have an adverse geopolitical impact and would be excessively costly.

Latvian Transport Minister Anrijs Matīss, as well as representatives of the State Chancellery came out of the government house to talk to the protesters who greeted them with applause. Pūle handed the minister a petition against the construction of the tunnel, signed by nearly 5,000 residents.

Matīss told the protesters that the decision on the tunnel's construction has not been made yet and assured them that the best solution will be sought to ensure that the Rail Baltic project affect as few people as possible.

Meanwhile, Nils Ušakovs, the mayor of Rīga, told Latvian Television on Tuesday morning that the Municipality of Riga is against building a tunnel for the Rail Baltica line, even though generally the project, connecting Riga's Central Station with the Riga Airport, is seen in a favorable light.

Previously, Ēriks Pūle had sent geological data about Āgenskalns, acquired from the State Latvian Environment, Geology and Meteorology Centre, to three international experts who had said that building a tunnel in Āgenskalns is in fact quite dangerous.

The suburb is also known for its wooden architecture and artistic leanings.

Rail Baltica is a proposed high-speed line to link Helsinki with Berlin through the Baltic capitals by 2024.

The key goal of the project is to renew regional integration by re-joining the Baltic states with the European rail network. The project will cost Latvia about 1.27 billion euro. It is co-funded by Connecting Europe Facility (CEF). The first part of the project acquired more than 80% in funding from the CEF.

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