EC co-finances Rail Baltica project

“The European Commission plans to give 124 mln euro to the Rail Baltica project. The trans-European railway ? linking Helsinki, Finland; Tallinn, Estonia; Riga, Latvia; Kaunas, Lithuania; Warsaw, and continuing on to Berlin ? is to be developed within the boundaries of the cooperating EU member states.

Rail Baltica is designed to help reach the EU goals of equality of access to services and infrastructure of EU member states, the development of sustainable modes of transportation and the establishment of links with the rest of the EU rail network.
An analysis done in January estimated that the entire project will cost 1 bln to 2.4 bln euro.

The EU money is to be spent on a technical analysis of the project.

The main aim of the Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Finland project is to unify the railway to European standards, namely a ground clearance of 1,435 millimeters.

In the area of the previous Soviet Union, the broad-gauge railway has a 1,520-millimeter ground clearance.
Experts worry about finding enough money to finance the whole project. EU Transport Commissioner Jacque Barrot told the Polish Press Agency (PAP): “”It is obvious that building this railway will continue beyond 2013.””

According to the press agency, a ceremonial inauguration of the first part of the railway took place on the Polish-Lithuanian border in Mockawa in July.

Polish Transport Minister Boguslaw Kowalski said that when the railway is modernized from Warsaw to Lithuania, freight trains will travel 120 km per hour and passenger trains almost 160 kilometers per hour. Currently, they travel 40 to 50 kilometers per hour.

The European Commission has 8 bln euro to help finance transport projects from 2007-2013. The experts say that it is too little for some 30 priority projects.

So far, railway construction between Berlin and Palermo has received 960 mln euro and a high-speed railway in France, Spain and Portugal has received 672 mln euro.

The 124 mln euro proposal for Rail Baltica faces a review by the European Parliament, with a final decision to be made at the beginning of 2008.

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