Mr. Kaspars Rokens Chief Operating Officer of Rail Baltica, unveils the details of one of Europe’s flagship rail projects. This network is part of the baltic north sea corridor.
Mafex: “Rail Baltica” is one of the widest-reaching and most significant railway projects in Europe. What does this rail corridor consist of?
Kaspars Rokens: It concerns the most significant rail project in the Baltic region. The aim is to construct a new corridor for both passenger and freight traffic. It will be European gauge (1435 mm) railway which will connect Tallinn, Riga, Kaunas and Vilnius, with the Polish – Lithuanian border in the north of Poland. Rail Baltica forms part of the Northern Sea – Baltic Corridor. However, we are not just building the physical railway infrastructure, we are building solid preconditions for establishing a new economic corridor in the region.
Mafex: What is the schedule forecast, and which phase of the working plans is currently underway?
Kaspars Rokens: The implementation of the “Rail Baltica” project has been divided into three stages: Planning, design and construction. During the planning stage, activities involved with route alignment, along with miscellaneous major studies on the three Baltic states. However, certain less important studies will also be commissioned in the subsequent stages. Furthermore, some stages of the project overlap as certain acquisitions of infrastructure elements undertaken by Rail Baltica are scheduled as part of “Design and Construction”. The design period which we have already entered is carried out between the years 2016-2022. The forecast working plan for the construction of the railway line, stations, terminals and maintenance installations will be completed in 2024. Within a few years, in 2019 and up to 2025 will be the implementation period for the ERTMS system. In 2026, rail traffic will commence and passengers will be able to use this new train.
Mafex: What benefits will it bring?
Kaspars Rokens: The ‘Rail Baltica’ Corridor has major potential as a catalyst for socio-economic development in the region. The benefits encompass all the key groups and interested parties, ranging from passengers, to freight operators, railway administrators and the general public. It will be a highly modern and competitive infrastructure compared to other means of transport that will improve connectivity and provide a boost to cross-border connections.
It is calculated that the sum of the total benefits accomplished (including GDP multiplier) will be in excess of 18 billion euros, and will contribute to a substantial improvement in numerous aspects, such as safety, climate change, journey times, etc. To give an example, at the present time it takes around four hours to travel from Tallinn to Riga, a journey time that will be considerably reduced – the travel time will be a bit less than two hours – once this railway line is operational. Furthermore, model integration and interoperability will be fostered, thus contributing to a reduction of road traffic and the elimination of bottlenecks.
Mafex: What is the role of RB Rail AS?
Kaspars Rokens: Our main role is coordination of the project implementation in three countries and also implementation. RB Rail AS represents the project with the aim of ensuring its success, effective resource spending, interoperability of the railway line and benefit to the Baltic and European public. Thus far, the project has been the beneficiary of 765 million euros in financing granted by the Mechanism “Connecting Europe (Conectar Europa)” (CEF) and national states.