On November 30, 2016 an international conference organized by the Ministry of Transport of Republic of Latvia named “Progress of project Rail Baltic/Rail Baltica 2016” was held in Riga, where the representatives of the ministries and implementing bodies informed about their achieved progress in each of the Baltic states. Among the spokesperson in the conference were representatives from the three Baltic states including the CEO and Chairperson of the Board of the joint venture RB Rail AS –Baiba Rubesa.
Evaluating this year’s development of the Rail Baltic/Rail Baltica project implementation from the perspective of RB Rail, the main project coordinator, it should be noted that we have moved slowly, but definitely step by step and forward. We have entered the phase of important tasks that must be faced in 2017 and which are expected from us by the citizens of the Baltic countries, the European Commission, as well as project partners in Poland and Finland. This means that project maturity must be reached and effective usage of resources implemented. That is what Baiba Rubesa, the CEO and Chairperson of the Board, noted during her speech in the international conference.
She explained that 2016 has been the year of duty fulfilment and responsibility division among the involved parties in the project. This year the Inter-beneficiary Agreement was signed defining the management of the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) funding. The Agreement sets the procedure in which the joint venture receives the European Union funding and distributes it among the beneficiaries (ministries of all the states), as well as it defines reporting procedures for the use of the funding. After long and detailed discussions among three implementing bodies and ministries, also the Agreement on Rail Baltic/Rail Baltica Contracting scheme was signed defining project related procurement order and roles. On the Independence Day of the Republic of Latvia also the second Grant Agreement was signed with the Innovation and Networks Executive Agency (INEA) of total value 225 million euros for construction of the Rail Baltic/Rail Baltica high-speed railway. The total value of the CEF investment in the project rounds up to 633 million euros, which is 82% of total eligible costs.
“In the next year, we have two important goals to achieve. Firstly, our work has to prove certain project’s maturity – point of no return, which will be the basis for further funding requests from the European Union for the railway construction works also after 2020. This means that the railway routes in all three countries must be officially approved by the governments, all necessary intergovernmental agreements must be signed , most significant researches and analysis have to be carried out, and all project activities must be going in accordance to the plan, as well as procurement procedures have to be made clear to all involved parties so that the construction phase can be launched. What is more, the project must prove its good governance and transparent financial flow,” Baiba Rubesa pointed out.
“The second aim is the effective use of resources. It is important that the implementing bodies and the joint venture RB Rail AS is not duplicating different functions, therefore we have to strive for a model of single Rail Baltic/Rail Baltica implementing body. RB Rail offers to create Rail Baltic/Rail Baltica expert group, which will provide its expertise to all involved implementing bodies – forming RB Rail as a project knowledge and expertise hub. In addition, its resources after the project’s implementation can be sold as a service to other similar large-scale projects. Such model would allow to deal with various issues, such as, many project web pages, or employment of many experts in each country.”
Baiba Rubesa also pointed out the main tasks of the RB Rail in the project implementation during the next year: the Management Board must be appointed so already in Spring it is fully operating, also an organization corresponding to project needs must be developed, closing the year with 50 employees. Important task is also development of common standards for all of the procurement documentation carried out by all implementing bodies and for supplier qualification. It is also planned to set clear procurement calendar available for public interest. During the next year it is necessary to conclude the cost-benefit analysis, ten-year infrastructure and company business plan as well as design guidelines of the track. Additionally, an analysis must be carried out to determine infrastructure manager in all three countries as well as separate analysis of the already built section from Polish/Lithuanian state border to Kaunas and its compliance to Global Project definition. During this period feasibility study will be carried out for the light rail or tram connection in Tallinn. In her speech, she also stressed the need to strengthen the cooperation with Finland and Poland during the next year in order for them to become an official shareholders of RB Rail.
She expressed confidence that the success story of the project depends not only on the Baltic state cooperation abilities, but also on a common and clear stakeholder vision. The future passenger of the Rail Baltic/Rail Baltica currently is 8 years old. For our next generation to develop the economies of the Baltic states and strengthen competitiveness of national countries, a much faster way to commute from point A to point B must be provided, as well as faster cargo flows and faster access to new services, knowledge and resources. Rail Baltic/Rail Baltica project provides opportunities that must be seen today, to be able to use them tomorrow.
Rail Baltic/Rail Baltica project has to form an economic corridor which will closely connect the North East of the Europe with the rest of the Union; which will create the necessary infrastructure in the Baltic states in order to create industrial and logistic centers stimulating small and medium- sized business development in the surrounding area as well as to facilitate cross-border scientific and cultural cooperation. All of this is possible only by expanding the horizons of our current scope,” says Baiba Rubesa.