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Minister: designing Latvia’s first railway tunnel will be Rail Baltica’s main challenge

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Latvian Transport Minister Tālis Linkaits

Designing Latvia’s first railway tunnel in Torņkalns will be the main challenge of Rail Baltica construction project in Riga, journalists were told by Transport Minister Tālis Linkaits on Friday, 5 July.

Construction design contracts for Rail Baltica’s central portion through Riga, as well as Vangaži-Salaspils-Misa route, were signed on Friday, 5 July.

«Today [5 July] we signed to contracts that are central for this Rail Baltica project and cover Riga on one side, as well as Upesleja, Daugava crossing, Ķekava and Mārupe. This means we have signed all the main contracts associated with Rail Baltica project in Riga and Pieriga,» said Linkaits.

He said these contracts are very important because the railway line through Riga will affect many territories in Torņkalns, Āgenskalns and Zasulauks.

«As far as I am aware, it is planned to demolish the first and only residential home in this project. This will be one of our tests. It is planned to create the first and only railway tunnel in Latvia. Although this is nothing new in the world, it is for Latvia,» stresses the minister. He says the railway tunnel will be built in Torņkalns, where there are already four pairs of railway lines, two of which lead to Jurmala and two – to Jelgava. This will be the narrowest part of the project’s line. This is why Rail Baltica infrastructure is planned below existing railways.

The Vangaži-Salaspils-Misa route includes crossing Daugava River. «It is planned to cross the water reservoir of Riga Hydroelectric Power Plant, which presents a large and technologically complicated project. We have not yet decided on a railway bridge or a combined bridge. It is also a priority to ensure connection between the existing railway network in Salaspils and the new Rail Baltica railway line, which will serve as large logistics terminal,» said Linkaits.

The minister stressed that all contracts together form a step towards Rail Baltica implementation. Soon the first visual results will surface.

«We have to do all we can to ensure the project fits the initially planned terms. There is a lot to do to secure alienation of land and ensure the project is designed and implemented quickly. We hope we will be able to overcome the challenges and meet all deadlines. All projects have a tendency to become more expensive and take longer than expected over time. We hope this will not be the case here,» said Linkaits. He added that the project has a lot of involved sides – city-planners, different infrastructure holders, builders and designers – so it is important to ensure coordinated involvement from all participants.

As previously reported, Rail Baltica central portion through Riga is being designed by a consortium of two Spanish companies – IDOM Consulting, Engineering, Architecture (IDOM) and Ingenieria y Economia del Transporte (INECO). The length of the railway portion is 56 km and it consists of three sub-portions: Upesleja-Riga Central Station; Torņakalns-Imanta and International Airport Riga-Misa River. It is planned that this portion will have 30 roads and railway transmissions, four bridges, 13 pedestrian and four animal crossing points.

Construction design work on Vangaži-Salaspils-Misa route for EUR 12.024 million will be performed by international team of companies, composed of French Egis Rail S.A., German-based DB Engineering & Consulting and SIA Olimps. The length of the designed railway section is 67 km. It is planned to establish 33 road and railway transmissions, as well as connection with Rail Baltica inter-modal logistics centre in Salaspils and infrastructure maintenance point in Vangaži. It is also planned to establish three animal crossings and 11 bridges, Including a 1.3 km long bridge over Daugava River in Salaspils and Ķekava.

Rail Baltica project involves creating a European standard railway line from Tallinn all the way to the Lithuanian and Polish border, leading further to connect with other EU member states. In Baltic States it is planned to create a new 870 km long European standard railway width (1 435 mm) railway line to ensure maximum train speed of 240 km/h.

The cost of Rail Baltica project reaches EUR 5.8 billion, including the branch-off to Kaunas and Vilnius. Part of the costs is planned to be covered from funds provided by European Union. Rail Baltica will be open for traffic in 2026.

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