Rail Baltica construction could start in 2018 - company chairwoman

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Preparatory work on the Rail Baltica high-speed line joining the Baltic capitals could start in 2018, while substantial work on the railroad line could start in 2019 or 2020, Baiba Rubesa, chairwoman of the Rail Baltica joint venture RB Rail, told Latvian Radio Monday. 

"Construction is planned from 2019, but I think it could actually start in 2020 or around that time. Some preparatory works will be done in Estonia in Latvia and 2018 already. [..] So it's two or three more years, and then we'll start seeing something," said Rubesa.

She said however that many buffers can hinder the progress of the multi-billion euro project, including lengthy tender procedures.

"I have no doubt that there'll be many things that will delay the realization of the project. [The delays] are practically beginning now already. Many things are happening much slower than anticipated.

It's as simple as, for example, that I have no serious employees at the moment, absolutely none, [..]" said Rubesa, saying that there are still decisions to be made over doing tenders and recruiting employees transparently.

She said that tenders will be offered to Lithuanian and Estonian companies too, as well as European companies - depending on what the bids will be about.

Rubesa said that the arrival of the high-speed rail link will energize the Baltic local market, as passengers will be able to go from Rīga to Tallinn within two hours and from Rīga to Kaunas in about an hour and a half.

She said, however, that the "economic reasoning" behind the line lies behind cargo not passenger rail.

Rubesa noted that until now rail cargo in Latvia has only moved from east to west and from west to east.

"The idea is that we could also add in freight going southwards from the north and northwards from the south," said the Rail Baltica chairwoman.

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 €1.27b. The first part of the project acquired more than 80% in funding from the Connecting Europe Facility.

The joint venture RB Rail chairwoman Baiba Rubesa said in December 2015 that the first train to depart after the completion of the railway project should leave Tallinn for the Lithuanian-Polish border in 2025.

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