A paradox! Latvia’s transport sector requires enormous investments, minister assures

Generally speaking, so far the success of Latvia’s transport sector in the use of European Union funds has been poor, says Latvian Minister of Transport Kaspars Briškens.
Commenting estimates as to the amount of funding Latvia could have received from EU funds last year but didn’t, Briškens mentioned it exceeds EUR 67 million.
At the same time, he said this funding was partially distributed among other projects. However, the last EU Cohesion Fund’s seven-year financing will have a portion that wasn’t used. He added the exact numbers will be known later in January.

“A paradox! Knowing the enormous investment needs and the deficit of investments for Latvia’s transport sector,

leaving money on the table is unreasonable. On top of that, these are investments that arrive with a very large EU co-financing. With every euro provided by the Latvian budget, we receive six euros from the EU. What we see here is absurd! It’s poor, negligent planning if we don’t prioritise investing every euro cent in meaningful projects,” stressed the minister.
According to Briškens, there have to be mutually competing high-readiness projects that can replace one another – even between various capital associations.
“If a project managed by Road Transport Administration (ATD) isn’t going anywhere, funding can be diverted to a project of Latvian Railway or vice versa. This is how a healthy approach is formed. I hope we will centralise planning and money flow in the future,” said Briškens.
He also mentioned that the Ministry of Transport the institution that manages project supervision. Briškens said so far there has not been a political vision of priorities. To a large extent, planning takes place at the level of capital companies in accordance with their own vision, often without synchronising with other investment projects, without looking for synergies between projects that can be developed simultaneously – such as motorways and digital infrastructure.
“This is why one of the tasks we’ve put a great deal on emphasis on from day one is that use of EU funding needs improving. We have to find a way to ensure better planning, better organisation of procurement projects, as well as organise better competition in those procurement projects,” said Briškens.
Commenting on the delay with the procurement of battery-powered trains, Briškens said in the future there may be a noticeable pressure on the use of funding, when the need to divide projects into several stages or move projects to future EU fund periods may appear again at the risk of losing a portion of funding.
“I’m always said when Latvia is provided with EU funding with a high – 85% or more – co-financing proportion and the money ends up left on the table because someone backed off at some point, and there is no longer enough time to distribute the money among other projects. This is one of the problems that exists in the batter-powered trains procurement project,” said Briškens.
He also said that the other problem is that when the purchase of nine battery-powered trains was organised, the purchase of seven more trains remained an option, but if the ministry’s objective is making the railway into the backbone of public transport services, the non-electrified zone will require at least 40 more trains.
“This is addition to 32 trains we may need on top. If we really want to eliminate these parallel grants between trains and road transport, the problems with cartels, we will need many more trains. And because Latvia has Russian-standard railways, it’s not like there are loose train cars somewhere in Europe we can simply take. We have to order these trains, manufacture them – and this is a five to six-year cycle. It’s not like we could get additional by tomorrow afternoon,” said Briškens.
According to him, Latvia should consider the purchase of additional trains.
Also read: Minister: institutions have to agree on cooperation in the event of malfunctions of passenger trains
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