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Saturday 23.09.2017 | Name days: Vanda, Veneranda, Venija
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Lithuania being investigated for cutting Latvian link

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The European Commission has launched formal antitrust proceedings against the Lithuanian state-owned railway company Lietuvos gelezinkeliai (LG) for removing a rail link between Latvia and Lithuania.

Author: SXCIn late 2008, Lietuvos gelezinkeliai dismantled the Lithuanian leg of the rail tracks connecting Renge station in Latvia to Mazeikiai in Lithuania, following an order from the Lithuanian government. It claimed that the track was in bad condition and could cause an accident. It has not reopened the route since, Bbn.ee reported.

There is a curious coincidence, though. Mazeikiai is home to Orlen Lietuva, Lithuania’s biggest industrial company, a Polish-owned oil refinery. A part of the refinery’s output is exported via Riga port. The track removal operation took place right when the Polish side and Lithuania’s government got into a bitter argument over railway transportation rates. It was the Polish side that filed a formal complaint to the European Commission.

Following the rail track removal, Orlen has to use another route to Riga, which is some 120 km longer. Both Orlen and Latvian state-owned rail company Latvijas Dzelzcels complain that Lithuania’s move is aimed at protecting its own transport companies at the expense of their competitors. This would be a violation of EU antitrust rules.

After numerous government-level complaints from Poland, LG agreed to restore the tracks. In 2010, it awarded a design contract to Spanish Ardanuy Ingenieria and promised the LTL 41m project to be completed in 2 years.

But that was not enough for Brussels. In early 2011, the Commission raided LG’s premises to collect relevant documents.

On its part, LG makes it clear that the restoration of the lost track is long way from now. “The design project is over but LG now has other infrastructure funding priorities – the links to Belarus where most of the cargo comes from, the Rail Baltica project, the development of public logistics centres. So the problem with the Renge line hinges on the funding availability,” says Vidmantas Gudas, spokesperson for LG.

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