X-file reveals hidden truth about Rail Baltic

Andres Reimer
Please note that the article is more than five years old and belongs to our archive. We do not update the content of the archives, so it may be necessary to consult newer sources.
Photo: Liis Treimann

Outspoken critic of the Rail Baltic project MP Igor Gräzin was not accommodated in January when he asked Prime Minister Jüri Ratas for a presentation given during a 2011 cabinet meeting regarding the railroad. State Secretary Heiki Loot refused to release the document as the economy ministry had deemed it exclusively for in-house use for a period of a decade.

The ministry removed the restriction on access on the meeting's memorandum citing overwhelming public interest last week.

Considerable success found

That was the meeting during which the government decided that all future development of the 1,435 mm track gauge railroad would concern the Tallinn-Pärnu-Riga route.

The document, believed by opponents of Rail Baltic to be hiding the darkest secrets of the project, reveals that the Baltic governments have been remarkably successful since.

If today Estonia's part in the project is said to be in the vicinity of €250 million, six years ago the government tasked ministries with finding €460 million for own financing.

The AECOM study that served as the basis for the memorandum looked at estimates of operating the railroad between 2025 and 2054 and found that without subsidies from the EU, the infrastructure operator's cash flow would be negative.

Financial deficit in investment expenses would amount to 66 percent. „EU subsidies for all three countries should amount to €2.07 billion, or about €600.3 million for Estonia. Estonia would have to contribute €460 million in cost-sharing,“ the memorandum read.

Another important fact revealed is that the government deemed both the Tallinn-Tartu-Valga/Koidula/Luhamaa transport corridor and the Tallinn-Pärnu-Riga 1,435 gauge railroad as equally important parts of the European transport grid.

Finland needs a way south

The prevalent mode of transport on Rail Baltic would be containers, with solid bulk goods retained as well. The document claims that Estonia could anticipate positive effect from the vicinity of Finland and St. Petersburg in terms of carriage of passenger and cargo as both need a corridor leading south. Economic reasons for abandoning the plan for a high-speed railroad are also explained.

„Speeds of 250 kilometers per hour and above warrant different TSI requirements that would hike the project's cost exponentially. The general rule suggests that the faster the connection, the greater its socioeconomic benefit. That said, we will have to remain within the bounds of an ordinary railroad as the concept is understood in Europe as a high-speed railroad would require separate infrastructure for carriage of goods, which would multiply capital expenses,“ the memorandum reads.