Rail Baltica: The People Behind the Vision. Jānis Eiduks

Rail Baltica is a railway infrastructure megaproject that spans across several countries. The depth of skills and expertise required to successfully execute a greenfield project of this caliber is extensive and would not be possible without our diverse team of professionals.

Welcome back to our series, “Rail Baltica: The People Behind the Vision,” where we introduce you to the members of the Rail Baltica global project team. These individuals are the driving force advancing the Rail Baltica project with their professionalism, dedication, and passion for this project.

Jānis Eiduks, Chief Technical Expert at Eiropas Dzelzceļa līnijas

As the Chief Technical Expert at Eiropas Dzelzceļa līnijas, the Rail Baltica national implementing body in Latvia, Jānis specializes in railway systems, operations, and the railway regulatory framework.

When did you join the Rail Baltica project and what inspired you to become a part of the team?

Pretty much my whole work life and passion lays in railway, so I naturally gravitated towards development of Rail Baltica and that dates back all the way to 2003.

In 2003, I was delegated as a representative of the Railwaymen Association of Latvia to the Rail Baltica National Consultative Committee, which was established for the first discussions on the idea of new railway towards Central Europe.  Soon the Transport Ministry colleagues asked me to join them as an expert for the Baltic transport ministries meeting, which took place in Vilnius and where first decisions on main parameters for the future railway line were taken. In 2004, I joined the ministry as there were no dedicated bodies for Rail Baltica then, this topic was a remarkable part of my agenda, including several important studies, which were carried out both internationally and nationally.

How has your role evolved since you first joined the Rail Baltica project, and what have you learned along the way?

In 2015, after Latvia’s presidency in the Council of the European Union, where I was directly involved in the final shaping of the fourth railway package, I returned to the ministry. At that time, Eiropas Dzelzceļa līnijas, still a small “newborn” company, was already in place. Then I decided that I needed some changes, and for me as a railway engineer, it could be a good time to return from more bureaucratic routine to practical things. I am proud of the work that has been done in our team working tirelessly towards the goal.

What does the Rail Baltica project mean to you?

More than 20 years of my life… Years filled with interesting challenges, hopes, and ideas, and a visionary dream of a modern railway system that connects me to the cities I like.

What do you believe is the most challenging aspect of this mega project?

Balancing political, financial, and engineering interests, as well as national interests, balancing construction and operational aspects, and finding the best solutions and viable compromises.

What advice would you give to a newcomer joining the Rail Baltica project team?

To be a railway fan. Maybe railways are not as romantic as they once were, but nonetheless, passion for railways should be the primary driver, the main stimulating factor.

What specific contribution or skill do you believe you bring to the Rail Baltica project team that sets you apart from others?

Good understanding of EU railway policy and regulatory framework. This is essential, even for making technical decisions that will support an open railway market. We are building infrastructure that can be utilized by various players, such as railway undertakings acting as train operators, while ensuring their freedom of action is not restricted by our decisions. At the same time, we must anticipate and accommodate these actions, keeping in mind the freedoms granted to railway undertakings by EU law. Additionally, for operational readiness, we need to understand the responsibilities of other stakeholders, including state institutions, and even remind them when necessary. This is crucial to ensure that the railway is not only fully constructed but also prepared for operations.

Also, in 2000, I had the opportunity to participate in a two-month-long training program in Japan, where I gained detailed insights into diverse railway systems. This knowledge has proven very helpful.

What hobbies, interests, talents do you have?

Railways, of course! Although I am not as active in this field now, some time ago, I was among those “crazy guys” who preserved operations on the Gulbene-Alūksne narrow-gauge railway, making it a member of FEDECRAIL – the European Federation of Museum and Tourist Railways. I also participated in establishing a museum peat railway in Baloži.

Additionally, I collect beer reviews on ratebeer.com, where I may still hold the title of being the reviewer from Latvia with the most diverse beer ratings.