Last year was significant in moving forward activities related to the planning phase of the implementation of the Rail Baltica project. It is foreseen that project managers will conclude this phase of the project at the end of 2017.
Ms. Baiba Rubesa, CEO and Chairperson of the central coordination unit of the project, “RB Rail AS”, explained that 2016 was the year of fulfilling obligations and dividing responsibility between the parties involved in the project.
- In 2016, the Inter-beneficiary Agreement was signed, defining the management of the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) funding. The Agreement sets out the procedure by which the joint venture receives European Union funding and distributes it amongst the beneficiaries (the Ministries of three countries), as well as defining the reporting procedures for the use of the funding.
- After long and detailed discussions among three Beneficiaries, implementing bodies and the joint venture, the Agreement on the Rail Baltica Contracting scheme was also signed, defining project related procurement orders and roles.
- Additionally, the second Grant Agreement was signed with the Innovation and Networks Executive Agency (INEA) on November 18, 2016, totaling 225 million euros for the construction of the Rail Baltica fast conventional railway. The total value of the CEF investment in the project comes to 633 million euros, which is 82% of total eligible costs.
Additionally, the preparation of the new Cost Benefit Analysis of the project started last year, which will be completed by April 2017. Also, determination of the technical parameters of the railway line commenced and preparations for the Consolidated Preliminary Technical Design for the whole route was launched last year. In order to ensure co-financing by the EU, an application was prepared for the 2016 CEF Transport Call for Proposals. “RB Rail AS” submitted this application on February 6, 2017.
What progress was made nationally in the three Baltic countries?
- The Strategic Environmental Impact Assessment (SEA) and Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and county planning processes for the Estonian section of the railway line are in their final stages. Development consent is expected in Q2 2017.
- A Preliminary design for the Estonian section of the railway line has been completed in the southern part of Estonia. Full completion of the preliminary design is expected in Q1 2018.
- The Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and spatial planning processes for the Latvian section of the railway line were completed in 2016. Development consent was provided by the Government of the Republic of Latvia in August 2016. The Government also approved the project’s status as that of an ‘object of national interest’.
- A Preliminary design for the Latvian section of the railway line was completed in 2016.
- An international sketch design competition for the most complicated element of infrastructure in Latvia (the central multi-modal public transport hub in Riga and the Rail Baltica railway bridge) was carried out in 2016.
- The Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and spatial planning processes for the railway section Kaunas–Lithuania/Latvia border were completed in 2016. Development consent was provided by the Environmental Protection Agency (acting under the Ministry of the Environment) and the Government of the Republic of Lithuania in January 2017.
Goals in 2017
In 2017 all of the parties have to work towards two important goals. Firstly, the project managers have to prove the maturity of certain aspects of the project – i.e. the point of no return, which will be the basis for further funding requests from the European Union for the railway construction works after 2020. This means that the railway routes in all three countries must be officially approved by the governments and the most important studies and analyses must have been carried out. Furthermore, all project activities must be going to plan, as well as procurement procedures being made clear to all involved parties so that the construction phase can be commenced. Additionally, the project must evidence good governance and transparent flows of finance. Secondly, effective use of resources must be adopted in order to avoid duplication of different functions.