Work starts on Latvian leg of high-speed Rail Baltica

Officials gathered to mark the start of construction in Riga on 21 May (Courtesy of Rail Baltica)
The ERB Rail joint venture officially started work on the €3.7bn, 220km Latvian leg of the Rail Baltica high-speed railway this week.

Rail Baltica is an 870km railway linking the Estonian capital Tallinn in the north down through Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania to Poland, where it will integrate with the European rail network.

Costed so far at €5.8bn and majority-funded by the EU, it will carry passengers at 249km/h and freight at 120km/h.

The ERB Rail JV won the Latvian contract at the end of last year. It comprises France’s Eiffage Génie Civil (50% shareholder), Ferrovial’s Polish subsidiary Budimex (30%), and Italy’s Rizzani de Eccher (20%).

As well as the 1,435mm-gauge tracks, they’ll have to build 175 associated structures and 11 wildlife crossings.

The groundbreaking ceremony took place in Riga on 21 May, attended by representatives of the European Commission and participating countries.

Officials buried a time capsule to symbolise their commitment to future generations.

In Latvia, work begins in the Bauska region, where Rail Baltica’s maintenance centre will be located to serve the construction base for the line.

“It is an honor to be chosen to build Rail Baltica, and it is also a challenge, given the scope of the project,” said Artur Popko, general manager and chairman of Budimex’s management committee.

Jaime Rontome Pérez, member of the ERB rail management committee, said the project’s “greatest challenge will be integrating the various organisations and cultures in a common project with the highest standards of safety and quality.”

Close to 85% of the project’s funding comes from the EU’s Connecting Europe Facility.

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