Latvia appoints special Rail Baltica secretary amid strategy change

Image: Shutterstock. Pandora Pictures

In the midst of a troubled implementation of Rail Baltica in Latvia, the country is undergoing a strategy change. Latvia is centralising the project’s management under the transport ministry. Kristine Malnača, formerly employed at Rail Baltica, will be deputy state secretary for Rail Baltica affairs, starting in June.

Malnača will be leading a Rail Baltica steering group, which “will oversee strategic management, implementation, and oversight matters related to the project”, according to the Latvian transport ministry. She was selected from a pool of 40 applicants for the position.

“The Deputy State Secretary’s responsibilities will encompass ensuring both strategic and operational management of the Rail Baltica project in Latvia”, a representative of the transport ministry explains. “The aim of the steering group is to accelerate the implementation of the overall project and to resolve delays and move forward faster.”

Up until now, “the Ministry of Transport primarily supervised the implementation organisations of the project, including SIA “Eiropas Dzelzceļa līnijas” and RB Rail AS, in carrying out delegated tasks, but was less involved in the strategic management of the project”, the transport ministry representative explains.

The planned Rail Baltica railway. Image: Wikimedia Commons/Rail Baltica AS.

Riddled with issues

With the strategy change, Latvia hopes to accelerate the implementation of Rail Baltica. The construction of the pan-Baltic railway, which aims to connect all three Baltic countries with the European TEN-T network on the European gauge, has faced many challenges in Latvia.

The rail line’s projected costs rose significantly, from 5,8 billion euros to 8 billion. Moreover, design, land expropriation and construction all face delays. Latvia even suspended a member of government for ‘work violations’ related to the project.

Additionally, the line may initially bypass the Latvian capital city Riga. Inflation, limited available building materials, a labour shortage and the location of the railway station in the middle of the city complicate the desired connection of Riga to the Rail Baltica mainline. The EU has stated that the line will have to be completed ‘with or without Riga’.

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Author: Dennis van der Laan

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Latvia appoints special Rail Baltica secretary amid strategy change | RailFreight.com