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Monday 20.05.2019 | Name days: Venta, Salvis, Selva
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Risky projects that are «under watch» in Latvia: electrification, Krievu Island and Rīgas tramvajs

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Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RU«Latvia’s biggest mistake getting its hands on finances to afford EU projects is that these projects are more often than not organizes specifically to use said finances, and no though is put into work on achieving results or even if results of said projects could even turn out positive for the country in the end. We see this with railway electrification, Krievu Island and Rīgas tramvajs project,» said Transport Minister Tālis Linkaits in an interview to BNN.

Evaluation of the electrification project currently continues, but it remains unclear how this massive project could potentially affect the state budget, the financial state of Latvian Railway, as well as the volume of cargoes needed for the project to ensure return of investments. The minister adds that the project remains «on the move». Meanwhile, officials are looking for answers to questions, because there are currently no clear solutions.

When asked by BNN if Transport Ministry is ready to put the project on hold if no clear answers are provided, Linkaits said: «There are many possibilities. I would rather avoid a situation when we have to stop railway electrification, because we would thereby lose in competition with Lithuania. Still, modification of the project itself remains possible.»

In spite of the fact that there are many unclear aspects with the project, one of the hottest topics is ensuring equal rights to carriers.

Linkaits admits that there is still a lot of work to do to convince Latvian Railway, as a former monopoly holder, that the situation has changed and that it requires fair competition. «There rare European directives and requirements in relation to market liberalization based on equal rights principle. Change of mindset is a slow process for Latvian Railway».

The minister says he is well aware that it is impossible to electrify the railway network in a single swoop – if this happens, it will in the far future, considering Latvia’s financial capabilities. However, there will always be some transit directions possible to perform without electric traction. This is why it is important to maintain equal conditions for electric and diesel transit service providers, stresses the minister.

«It is clear Latvian Railway’s business model needs to change, but we’re starting from the wrong end. We want for form a competent council that would include independent members with experience in large business management with appropriate experience. Then it will be possible to discuss a business model appropriate 21st century, as well as specialists and personnel capable of implementing the business model,» comments Linkaits.

Continuing on the topic of projects «in question», the minister also mentioned Rīgas tramvajs project. «The problem is that the target index is simply the number of trams or kilometres, without giving a thought about the usefulness of routes or what introduction of new routes is meant to accomplish.»

«Another critical project we have our eyes on is the Krievu Island project at Riga Freeport. In accordance with this project, all work associated with moving business from one riverbank to another should be completed by 31 March. For different reasons this was not accomplished sooner. We are watching closely to make sure everything is ready by 31 March,» Linkaits said.

In relation to the fact that several of the companies managed by Transport Ministry have been involved in corruption scandals, Linkaits said the following: «It’s hard to say. Everyone has different experience. It is clear that these companies, especially large ones, were politically influenced. It is no secret that there are different interest groups that work on the inside and within the entire industry. This kind of luggage is not light.»

Nevertheless, Latvia’s new transport minister promises to put an end to any kind of corruption: «No tolerance for corruption and schemes! My approach is not making a fuss, because this industry is serious and responsible. It contributes a lot to Latvia’s economy. With that, we have to look at every movement and the ripples it sends, so that we do not break something. At the same time, all the schemers have either been dismissed [from their posts] or have been made accountable,» the minister promised to BNN.


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