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Rail Baltica project moving on to next step

Rail Baltica project moving on to next step

Officials from Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia met to sign for a new railway link in their countries, part of a bigger project, in order to make use of new trade opportunities.

Leaders of three Baltic area nations have recently signed a deal, on January 31st, for a high-speed railway line that will ultimately run between Finland and Germany. The new rail trade route will also be passing through Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia and Poland. The proposed project also mentions an underwater rail tunnel, connecting Finland to Estonia, with an estimated cost of 5 billion EUR.

After the contract was officially signed by the prime ministers of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, the next step would be to obtain funding. Project leader, Baiba Rubesa hopes the countries will apply for EU funding, which would be able to cover around 85% of the financing needs. On the other hand, experts agree that such an undertaking is too risky. According to the Estonian ecologist and politician, Mart Jussi, the build project raises some environmental concerns: ‘As a scientist, I have to say there is a very big risk that this high-speed train track will have a very negative impact and spoil the ecological environment’. One of the reasons for this objection is the route the trains will be traveling on. The railway track will be passing through forests, swamps and wetlands, which are said to be untouched until now. Furthermore, the costs could prove too much for the countries involved, experts agree.

The project is divided into three phases. The first phase consists of a route from the Poland-Lithuania border to Kaunas (Lithuania), which was inaugurated in October 2015. The second build phase, connecting the cities of Kaunas (Lithuania), Riga (Latvia) and Tallinn (Estonia), is set to commence in 2019 and, according to the European Council President, Donald Tusk, the new rail link should be ready for use by 2025. The last part of the project will connect the track to Warsaw (Poland), in 2030.