Rail Baltic – Infrastructure Project of the Century
The new nort-south railway linking Tallinn-Riga-Kaunas-Warsaw named Rail Baltic is likely to become one of the largest infrastructure project of our century in this part of Europe. With the support of the EU, three Baltic countries have an ambitious plan to construct over 700 km of new European-gauge double track railway and reduce passanger journey time from the southern coast of the Gulf of Finland down to the Lithuanian-Polish border to 4 hours only.
The project seemed to be wishful thinking or a political daydream only a decade ago, but today it is already close to calling at its first station – all participating governments have declared their political will to follow through and open the new railway in 2025.
The European Commission has prioritized Rail Baltic as one of the Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T) projects and will be the primary funding agency behind its development. Comprehensive studies on the financial, technical and legal specifications of the new railway are being or have already been prepared, procurements to commission preliminary track planning and design are also under way.
While the recent kick-start of the project has been quite a success, several macro-level issues still need to be addressed and resolved. The exact financing terms of the megaproject will be established only when the EU budget discussions for the next period are finalised and the new railway will need to establish itself as an alternative north-soth freight corridor in the minds of all those cargo owners currently using mostly searoutes or trucks.
Rail Baltic can become a sustainable infrastructure project only if the political decision-makers and entrepreneurs of the region succeed in realizing its potential to everyone’s benefit. For that purpose the governments of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania need to agree on the many terms of their future joint venture and the Baltic business community’s overall understanding of Rail Baltic’s commercial potential needs to improve significantly. Read more.