Rail Baltic to go ahead

€230 million is allocated for the construction of Rail Baltic’s main route in Estonia from 2024-2027; the project aims to link Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland with a high-speed railway, but it’s behind the schedule, prompting a scepticism about the future of the venture.

A financing agreement was signed on 17 October, allocating €196 million from the Connecting Europe Facility to Estonia to complete the foundational constructions of the first three sections of the Rail Baltic railway main route, along with their intersections and traffic nodes.

Estonia will add an additional €34 million, bringing the total investment for the construction works to €230 million. Approximately €1.1 billion will be directed to Rail Baltic as a whole, including contributions from the Baltic countries, according to the Estonian climate ministry.

Major works planned in 2024

“The funding, granted almost in full as requested, indicates the priority of Rail Baltic – it’s one of the most significant infrastructure projects in this region. A fast rail connection with Europe not only brings opportunities to our economy and strengthens security but also has a major impact on reducing the carbon footprint by reducing dependence on road transport and promoting a transition to a more sustainable mode of travel,” the Estonian climate minister, Kristen Michal, said, according to BNS.

Rail Baltic would link Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania with Poland and through it with the European rail line network. Image by the Latvian transport ministry.

With the funds obtained from the application round, approximately 22 kilometres (14 miles) of the Rail Baltic main route will be constructed in Estonia. Earthworks for the railway will be constructed in three sections and will be completed by 2027 at the latest.

In addition to the earthworks, the railway substructures, viaducts, ecoducts, access roads and a light traffic tunnel will also be completed, as well as noise barriers.

In 2024, there will be at least 50 kilometres (31 miles) of the Rail Baltic main route under construction in Estonia, BNS reported.

The virtual concept of a proposed Rail Baltic train. Images by Rail Baltica.

According to the Estonian state budget strategy, between 2024-2027, more than €1 billion from EU support funds and state co-financing are planned to be invested in the construction of Rail Baltic.

Supposed to be completed by 2026

The purpose of the Rail Baltic is to integrate the Baltic states in the European rail network, linking Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania with Poland. The project was started in 2010 and as of 2020, the high-speed railway connection from Tallinn to the Lithuanian-Polish border was expected to be completed by 2026. As the massive infrastructure undertaking is clearly behind the schedule, it has also faced criticism in Estonia and there are also calls to scrap the entire project.

The Rail Baltic passenger train is projected to have the maximum speed of 249 km/h (155 mph) for passenger trains and 120 km/h (75 mph) for freight trains.

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