Lithuania ready to lead Rail Baltica project: transport minister
Lithuania is ready to assume leadership of the Rail Baltica project to ensure its timely and successful implementation, the Baltic country's Minister of Transport and Communications, Rokas Masiulis, wrote in a letter to the European Commission, the ministry announced on Wednesday.
"Rail Baltica is a strategic project for Lithuania. We are moving fast forward as regards project activities and future plans and we are leading at certain stages. We are determined to contribute to joint project implementation solutions that are important to our neighbors to ensure the success and timelines of the project," Masiulis was quoted as saying in the statement.
In his letter to the European Union (EU) executive, Masiulis listed the main stages of the project which Lithuania is ready to implement after requisite funding from the EU is secured.
One stage in Lithuania is the connection of a 1,435-millimeter track gauge railway line with Kaunas Intermodal Terminal in Palemonas in Kaunas district and the installation of the required infrastructure, the ministry's statement read.
"The benefits of the investment will be felt much earlier than the project itself. In a few years, rail carriers will be able to use the infrastructure, the development of logistics and related businesses will be promoted and the tangible results of the project can be presented," Masiulis underlined.
According to the minister, the Rail Baltica project is also considered a priority for Lithuania's national security as regards development of strategic transport infrastructure, which will ensure the mobility of North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) military units, armaments and equipment.
Among other elements of the project, the Lithuanian ministry listed territorial planning, land acquisition and projection works along the Rail Baltica route between the Lithuanian-Polish border and Kaunas and between Kaunas and Vilnius.
Rail Baltica is the largest rail transport infrastructure project in the Baltic region. It aims to integrate the Baltic states in the European rail network. The project involves five EU countries -- Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and indirectly, Finland. It will connect Helsinki, Tallinn, Parnu, Riga, Panevezys, Kaunas, Vilnius and Warsaw. The project's total cost in the three Baltic states is estimated at 5.8 billion euros (6.56 billion U.S. dollars).
The implementation of the Rail Baltica project is financed jointly by Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania and co-funded by the EU up to 85 percent of the total eligible costs, in particular in the framework of the Connecting Europe Facility funding instrument.