The first day of the international two-day event “Rail Baltica Global Forum 2017 – Building a New Economic Corridor” that was held in Riga on April 24, 2017, gathered not only an impressive line-up of speakers, but also a great number of influential officials, politicians, decision-makers and experts from the three Baltic States and beyond. All of the attendees agreed that this was an important turning point in the project’s development as the new Cost-Benefit analysis of the Global Project was presented proving the value of the project and listing a number of benefits that the connectivity will bring.
Andris Strazds, Advisor at the Bank of Latvia, looks at the project through general global trends which prove that the economic and social development increasingly concentrates in the city centres of huge urban areas.
“The main essence of the project is that Rail Baltica would allow us not to fight these trends, but to use them for our benefit by connecting the centres of the big cities in the Baltics. It is vital to remark that the benefits that Rail Baltica brings to the society are much bigger than the costs, which was clearly manifested during the event. Another important message was the map proving that the three Baltic States together are worth much more than their individual values added up. In my opinion, this serves as a great reminder that the Baltic States must work together.”
However, the project should not be viewed only from the perspective of metropolitan areas, admits Tālis Linkaits, Head of VASAB Secretariat. “We have opportunities for new areas to develop, and they exist not only for the metropolitan region but also for secondary cities. For example, in Latvia it is Bauska and Salacgrīva where new opportunities might arise due to being connected with the capital or large cities in the Baltic States as well as Europe,” explained Mr. Linkaits.
Romek Kosenkranius, the Mayor of Parnu city (the city that would benefit from Rail Baltica alongside the capitals) claimed that a lot of people had already been expressing interest in moving to Parnu from Tallinn in case it got better connected with the Estonian capital. They also hope to attract some Latvians working in Riga. The connectivity will grow on a larger scale as well. “Rail Baltica will have a great impact on regional connections between the Baltic States, but it will also impact Poland, as there is quite a significant tourism flow from Poland to Vilnius area, and with this new mode of transportation I think it will definitely have a chance to grow,” said Jakub Kapturzak, Deputy Director at the Department of Railway Transport of the Ministry of Infrastructure and Construction of the Republic of Poland. He also emphasized that the conference was the next step to assure Poland that the project would actually be implemented.
As Dominique Deau, railway expert and former Development Director of NExTEO SNCF Reseau and SNCF Mobilites, highlighted, there are indeed great benefits from high speed rail projects and the connectivity that they bring. Nevertheless, these benefits are not automatic thus hard work must be invested in advance involving all stakeholders. He believes it will be done properly, as great enthusiasm for the project implementation was demonstrated during the event by all parties – the ministers as well as the European Commission – which is a crucial element.
“RB Rail AS”
“RB Rail AS” is a joint venture between the three Baltic States established in October 2014. Holding equal shares in “RB Rail AS” are “Eiropas dzelzceļa līnijas” SIA in Latvia, “Rail Baltica statyba” UAB in Lithuania and “Rail Baltic Estonia” OU in Estonia.
“RB Rail AS” is the central coordinator for the Rail Baltic/Rail Baltica project. The project involves the construction of a high speed rail line from Tallinn to the Lithuanian/Polish border. Rail Baltic/Rail Baltica will be an electrified public use rail line, an environmentally friendly and modern form of transportation.
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 Implementation of the Rail Baltica project in the Baltic States