Baltic states vow to step up political oversight of Rail Baltica project

The prime ministers of the three Baltic states and Poland met here on Friday to discuss progress on the regional rail infrastructure project Rail Baltica amid concerns about delays in the project’s implementation.

At a news conference that followed the talks, the prime ministers of Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania pledged to step up political oversight of the strategic project and enhance its overall management.

Latvian Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins told reporters that the transport ministers of the Baltic states have been instructed to jointly develop and agree on the project’s management model. “We, the prime ministers of the three Baltic states, are firmly standing by the Rail Baltica project and will do everything to advance it and ensure its completion,” Karins said.

Estonian Prime Minister Juri Ratas said he was glad about the strong interest of Poland and Finland in the railway project, noting that it affirmed its significance for the region. He voiced hope that Finland, too, will join the project in the future.

Lithuanian Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis said that “the decision for the prime ministers to personally oversee the project will help this project move forward even faster,” adding that Rail Baltica is more than just an economic project, as it directly concerns the Baltic states’ national security.

At the end of November, a group of employees at the Baltic joint venture RB Rail, which coordinates work on the Rail Baltica project, issued a joint statement expressing concerns about what they described as “poor corporate governance and conflict of interest situations” that have led the project into a “critical situation”.

After an unexpected departure of Finnish railway executive Timo Riihimaki as head of RB Rail, Agnis Driksna of Latvia has been appointed interim CEO of RB Rail. Driksna assumed his new office on Dec. 2.

Rail Baltica is a double track, European standard 1,435 mm gauge electrified railway for passenger and freight transport to be built from Tallinn via Riga to the Lithuanian-Polish border. The overall length of the railway will be 870 kilometers. The total cost of Rail Baltica project is estimated at around 5.8 billion euros. (one euro currently equals to 1.11 U.S. dollars)