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Rail Baltica High Speed Rail [free access]

May 1, 2020

Key players: The project is being developed by Estonia’s Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications, Latvia’s Ministry of Transport, and Lithuania’s Ministry of Transport and Communications. 


The authorities have established a multinational joint venture (JV), RB Rail AS, to develop and implement the project. 


Rail Baltic Estonia OÜ and the Estonian Technical Regulatory Authority in Estonia; Eiropas Dzelzceļa līnijas SIA in Latvia; and Rail Baltica statyba UAB and Lietuvos geležinkeliai JSC in Lithuania are the national implementing bodies. 


Project description: Rail Baltica is a greenfield rail transport infrastructure project that will connect Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia. It is one of the priority projects of the European Union’s (EU’s) Trans-European Transport Networks (TEN-T) under the North Sea Baltic Corridor.


Background: The HSR line will span 870 km (213 km in Estonia, 265 km in Latvia, and 392 km in Lithuania). The line will connect Helsinki, Tallinn, Pärnu, Riga, Panevežys, Kaunas, Vilnius, and Warsaw. The Government of Latvia approved the plan in August 2016, the Government of Lithuania in January 2017, and the Government of Estonia in February 2018. 


Cost and financing: The estimated cost of the project is EUR5.8 billion. The EU’s Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) is expected to cover up to 85 per cent of the total cost. The remaining cost will be covered by the three countries. 


The project has already secured EUR941 million in CEF funding and national co-funding, and a financing application has been submitted for an additional EUR781 million to be invested by the end of 2023.


Project timeline: The project is being developed in various sections. Construction work is expected to be completed by 2026. 


Tracks: The tracks will be standard gauge (1,435 mm) and will comply with all technical specifications for interoperability (TSI) requirements. 


Technology: The conventional double-track will be electrified at 2x25kV. The line will be equipped with the European Railway Traffic Management System (ERTMS) Level 2. 


Operational speed: The line will be designed to have a maximum speed of 249 km/hr for passenger service and of 120 km/hr for freight service. The maximum operational speed for trains will be 234 km/hr. 


Contractors: The following key contractors have been appointed for the design stage: 



In November 2019, Latvia’s Eiropas Dzelzceļa līnijas Limited launched a tender for the construction of the Rail Baltica station at the Riga International Airport. The scope of work also includes construction of access roads, embankments, as well as 6 km of railway tracks and overpasses. The estimated value of the contract is between EUR250 million and EUR280 million. The last date for submission of bids was January 10, 2020. The contract is planned to be awarded by end-2020. In addition, UK-based Zaha Hadid Architects and Estonia-based Esplan have won the design competition for the Rail Baltic terminal at Ülemiste, Tallinn in Estonia.


In December 2019, Lithuania’s Ministry of Transport and Communications and Lietuvos geležinkeliai (LG), the national rail operator in Lithuania, awarded a EUR2.5 million contract to Lithuania-based Sweco Lietuva and Germany-based DB Engineering & Consulting for the provision of services for the Kaunas–Vilnius section of Rail Baltica. The scope of work includes drafting of the communications engineering infrastructure development plan and carrying out an EIA on the section by 2021.


In April 2020, RB Rail AS, on behalf of the Ministry of Transport of Latvia, awarded two contracts for the design and design supervision services for the remaining two sections of the Rail Baltica main line in Latvia. The INECO–ARDANUY consortium was awarded a EUR13.5 million contract for the Vangažif–Latvian–Estonian border section, while IDOM was awarded a EUR6.9 million contract for the Misa–Latvian–Lithuanian border section. The two contractors will be responsible for site investigations, value engineering, development of the master design and detailed technical design for construction of the railway track, and supervision during the entire construction period. The design work is expected to be completed in 24 months.


RB Rail AS has launched a tender to select a provider for the electrification engineering services for the development, procurement, deployment, and supervision of the Rail Baltica energy subsystem. The last date for the submission of bids is May 11, 2020. The energy subsystem will comprise high-voltage feeding lines to link traction substations to high-voltage electrical grids, overhead catenary system, electrification control command system, etc. According to the proposal, the selected company will be required to conduct technical studies such as advanced software simulation of the energy subsystem, recommend the technical architecture of the energy subsystem, outline a technical specification for the deployment contracts, and oversee the execution of the design and construction works.


In the Rail Baltica Online Forum held in April 2020, the transport ministers of the Baltic states announced plans to complete the Rail Baltica project on time as a way of bolstering economic recovery in the region after the Covid-19 pandemic. The project plans for 2020 include setting up a procurement system that would enable quality, cost-efficiency, and speed in the delivery of construction works and also allow both international and local companies to take part in the project.


The following project timeline and plans were announced for 2020:


In Estonia, the technical design of the Rail Baltic passenger terminals in Tallinn and Pärnu will continue; a procurement process to start the technical design of freight terminals, rolling stock, and service depots will be launched; and more than 20 railroad viaducts and animal crossings will be constructed in 2020.


In Latvia, construction works in the Riga Central Station are scheduled to commence and the Riga airport section contract will be signed by the end of 2020. As of April 2020, the design work for the construction of the station is around 35 per cent complete. The design of the multimodal terminal in Salaspils will also begin in 2020 along with additional EIAs and a study for railway network development in the Riga node.


In Lithuania, the construction works in the Kaunas railway transport node will continue, a tender for the construction of the main line section from Kaunas to the Lithuanian/Latvian state border will be launched, planning for the Vilnius–Kaunas section will continue, and planning for the Kaunas node and the Kaunas–Lithuanian/Polish state border sections will start. In 2020, two key system procurements for the energy subsystem engineering services and for the control, command, and signalling system engineering will be launched by RB Rail AS.


Around EUR200 million of the EU funding is planned to be used for various project activities in all three Baltic states in 2020.


Recent developments



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