Possible roadblocks for Rail Baltica in northern Latvia

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Locals at the Salacgrīva region in northern Latvia are worried, as the track they previously approved for the high-speed Rail Baltica railway has been substituted with one located closer to the sea and affecting more properties, reported Latvian Television Tuesday.

A work group made up by locals had spent a year working with the railway planning company RB Latvija on a railroad track plan dubbed C5, which would affect development prospects in the region on a lesser scale. 

The C5 crosses some 60 meters of a Natura 2000 nature protection area, and the track designed was planned so as to minimize its impact on the environment.

However Latvia's State Environmental Bureau scrapped the plans, saying it's only possible to build the track on the alternate B2-2 route that forgoes the nature protection area.

Furthermore, the bureau claimed that if the C5 track is built, Latvia could be sued in an European court.

The municipality says it's perplexed as to why the possibility of building the C5 alternative was brought to the table in the first place.

"They're taking the easiest road. All of our work is being swept under the rug, and no one cares what will happen to the territories we've preserved with the C5 route," said Dagnis Straubergs, head of the Salacgrīva regional council.

The municipality says that despite not being in the way of any buildings, the B2-2 route goes through an inhabited area and crosses useful properties, putting question marks around future development prospects. 

"[The B2-2 route] would affect me in that it divides my farmland. Two thirds of it would remain on one side, and another third on this side," said farmer Anita Damsone.

The previously supported route would have gone through a forest. 

While the planning company Rail Baltica Latvija claims (link in Latvian) that it could take a year to legally secure the C5 route, causing delays that would affect neighboring countries as well.

There's a month left until the Transport Ministry approves the Rail Baltica route in Latvia, and up until then there's still time for discussion.

The Salacgrīva municipality doesn't seem to want to back down and could turn to the Constitutional Court or European Courts if no solution is found.

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

The project aims to renew regional integration by re-joining the Baltic states with the European rail network.

Rail Baltica will cost Latvia about €1.27b. More than 80% of it will be funded by the Connecting Europe Facility.

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