Is Rail Baltica doomed to fail?

Rail Baltica is one of Europe's largest infrastructure projects. The plan is that by 2026 trains will be able to travel all the way from Warsaw to Helsinki via Kaunas, Riga and Tallinn. The project is mainly financed with EU funds. But commentators from Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia are not convinced of its merits.

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Alfa (LT) /

At least the tracks will do for handcars

Lithuanian media recently drew attention to the fact that the stretch of track already built between Poland and Lithuania does not meet European standards and must be modernised. Alfa is indignant:

“It turns out that an additional 700 million euros or so will be needed to put in new tracks beside the existing ones, because trains can't travel on the latter at the intended speed of at least 200 km/h. Deputy Transport Minister Gytis Mažeika quipped that things really aren't so bad because after all we have tracks that can be used (perhaps to go to Poland with a handcar to buy cheap beer?). No one will use these tracks yet they cost as much as if they were gold-plated.”

Eesti Päevaleht (EE) /

A train to nowhere

Eesti Päevaleht fears that the huge Baltic project could end up being a huge disappointment:

“It's in planning, and here and there construction is under way and money is being spent. But it's not even clear whether Rail Baltica will make it possible to travel from Tallinn to Pärnu [in southern Estonia] in the 2020s, let alone from other places. If the Baltic heads of government don't restructure the company's management in a sensible way soon and get Finland back on board, there won't be any point in talking about an international Rail Baltica project anymore. Continuing with the same model of 'cooperation' as has been implemented so far means that, at best, in umpteen years' time we'll have an expensive railway line which is called international but doesn't really take rail connections between Estonia and Europe to a new level.”

Diena (LV) /

Builders could be in short supply

For Diena, Rail Baltica is a challenge not just for the politicians:

“In addition to the disputes triggered by political ambitions and differing views on the economic use of Rail Baltica, this project is also a deeply practical challenge - for its builders. Hopefully the construction of Rail Baltica won't be rushed, and quality won't be sacrificed to meet deadlines. ... Politicians and entrepreneurs have already realised that the Rail Baltica project will require thousands of workers to be employed at the same time. ... Local reserves will probably not suffice, so we must either attract workers from other sectors or open up the labour market to guest workers from Ukraine and Belarus.”