Rail Baltica may be a burden on taxpayers, EU auditors warn

The cost of the high-speed railway link Rail Baltica will run significantly over budget and its economic viability is in doubt, according to the European Court of Auditors (ECA).

The EU watchdog  inspected eight multi-billion-euro transport projects, including the railway link connecting Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia due to be completed by 2026.

However, the construction may drag on until 2030, ECA member Mikhail Kozlov told reporters on Tuesday.

The report also warns that the project may end up costing 7 billion euros, significantly more than the original budget of 4.65 billion which has so far been revised up to 5.8 billion.

The auditors also warn that Rail Baltica may not be economically viable once it is completed, because the north-south traffic is not intense enough and a proper survey on potential passenger and freight demand was not conducted.

During an online briefing, the court’s Oskar Herics explained that “the expected number of passengers of 4.6 million a year falls significantly short of the benchmark of 9 million passengers a year when comparing to high-speed standards”.

Moreover, as of June 2019, the three Baltic states had not agreed on a common management system for the rail link when it is up and running.

The level of co-financing offered by the EU in Rail Baltica’s case means that taxpayers could be on the hook for 6 billion euros, according to current estimates, a senior auditor told reporters.


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