Rail Baltica Estonia chief: the project will not be ready by 2026

Although construction Rail Baltica railway line is already underway in all three Baltic States, it is not possible to accomplish the project in accordance with the current deadline – 2026. Completion of the plan will need to be postponed until the end of the decade, admits Rail Baltic Estonia board chairman Tõnu Grünberg.
In his interview to Estonian newspaper Postimees, he said it is the deadline, because there is also the objective to complete European transport network TEN-T by 2030. Rail Baltica is part of this network. Until now our goal was 2026, but it is not carved in stone on the European level. Unfortunately, it is clear now we will not be able to meet this deadline. On the one hand, it cannot be accomplished technically and structurally and on the other hand there is no clarity in regards to the project’s financing, he said.
According to him, during the implementation of Rail Baltica in Estonia the project has faced two major obstacles – the planning around Pērnava and the design process for the main line.
Because The Estonian Court of Law has annulled the planning in Pērnava, the ministry of finance has plans to develop a new offer by the end of the week.
«We have found good alternatives for the previously initiated route. But there are also issues. We have to consider what is the best solution for the environment. Time-wise it no longer matters if we stick to the previous corridor or add changes to the plan. We will need to hold a public discussion and coordinate our efforts accordingly. It would be good if the new plan is approved before the end of next year,» says the head of Rail Baltic Estonia.
Rail Baltica’s initial project intended for it to be completed in 2018. The cost of Estonia’s branch of the railway was estimated at EUR 1.68 billion. Now, on the other hand, much larger numbers are considered. Additional financing may be requested from the EU budget. Although the first Rail Baltica related objects in Estonia cost less than planned, the situation is expected to change from now on, Postimees writes.
«Costs have increased, especially in regards to the construction of wildlife crossings and bypasses. We know we shouldn’t overheat the construction market. We have assessed terms of the project together with the Ministry of Economy and Communications, as well as the Department of Transport to be sure no unreasonable construction costs appear in 2024 and 2025. Estonia’s construction sector would be able to handle that and there would be a major price surge. This is why, in a way, it is good 2026 will not be the deadline,» Grünberg explains.
While Estonia is slowed by procurements, wildlife crossings and bypasses, Latvia and Lithuania seem to be moving forward with their respective projects.
A passenger terminal is under construction in Riga and Lithuania is finishing up acquisition of the necessary land from Kaunas all the way to the Latvian-Lithuanian border, Postimees writes.
Estonia will soon commence construction of its own passenger terminal. «We are close to commencing the construction of Ilemiste terminal. The initial plan provided for the announcement of the construction procurement this year, but certain nuances surfaced. We still have the coordination of the plan with Tallinn city administration ahead of us. And there is the issue of having to add certain improvements to the plan. Next year, however, we do want to tackle those procurements,» said Grünberg.
Although Rail Baltica will not be completed on time and new problems keep surfacing, it is clear the issue of the railway project will no longer be left on the shelf in waiting.