Rail Baltica reportedly faces setback: ‘more expensive and delays’
The Rail Baltica international railway project will cost significantly more than originally planned and is facing delays, according to reports of the investigative Latvian television show De Facto. A railway bridge across the Daugave river in Riga is reportedly likely to be abandoned in the first phase of the project, which should be finished by 2030.
The costs of the Rail Baltica project would be 8 billion euros rather than the 5.8 billion euros officially announced as the cost, according to the reports. In Latvia, construction works at Riga Central Station already started. However, it is no longer clear whether the track will even pass through central Riga in the first phase of construction, according to De Facto. The design of the route that goes through Riga has not started yet. These works are said to be delayed by several years. In September, a report to the government indicated that the contracted company from Spain “is not able to fully fulfil its obligations”, it writes. Now the contract with them has been terminated, with the agreement of both parties, said a representative of RB Rail to the Latvian news.
According to the reports, Rail Baltica planners are now looking for what could be sacrificed to save time and money, as the main financial backer of the project, the European Commission, requires that in 2030 there should be a functioning trans-European rail line between the Baltic States. In almost all of these scenarios, the planned new railway bridge in Latvian Capital Rīga is to be abandoned, according to the Latvian Public Broadcasting.
That scenario would mean that the state-of-the art high-speed railway would run past Riga, but would not enter the city, at least not before 2030.
That scenario is “not acceptable”, Transport Minister Kaspars Briškens said in an interview with Latvian Radio on November 22. “Whether this bridge will be built in the first phase by 2030 is currently being estimated, at present a scenario analysis is underway. In the long term, I believe that this capacity is necessary so that we can ensure full-fledged movement through Riga”, said transport minister Kaspars Briškens. At least seven different scenarios would be considered to save time and money, including one that sees the new line avoiding central Rīga altogether, according to the investigative show.
‘Future biggest passenger hub in the Baltics’
The new procurement of the detailed technical design for the mainline section from Riga International Airport to Misa and from Upeslejas to railway station Riga – Precu will be launched in December 2023, it was announced at the Rail Baltica Industry Day on 8 November, which took place a week before the Latvian TV show came with their report. Gusts Ašmanis, head of the infrastructure management department at Eiropas Dzelzcela Linijas – the implementing body of Rail Baltica in Latvia – talked about how their activities are progressing. He calls the Riga central station the ‘future biggest passenger hub in the Baltic States. “The expected number of passengers depends, if we use maximum capacity, we can achieve more than 40 million passengers per year, it has a large significance.” Any delays or uncertainties about the construction of the railway bridge through Riga are not mentioned.