While the new speed train connection linking Tallinn and Warsaw known as Baltic Rail is set to open for traffic in 2026, the project is progressing slowly. Many Finns are becoming increasingly frustrated as the promise of a quicker export route across the Gulf of Finland to Central Europe appears to be fading away.
At the same time Sweden is improving its direct connections between Stockholm and Brussels.
When and if the 900 kilometre project is completed, travel time from Tallinn to Warsaw via Riga and Vilnius will be reduced to less than seven hours.
The project would cost about €5-6 billion, 85% of which would be paid by the EU and the remaining 15% by the three Baltic states, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. The bloc considers it to be one of its priority infrastructure projects.
One of the main reasons for the slow progress appears to be organisational, according to Finnish media reports.
Back in 2014, the three Baltic states founded a joint venture, BR Rail with equal shares. Under BR Rail’s umbrella each country has its own state-owned and independent implementing bodies in charge of the construction work, meaning that all decisions made by BR Rail have to be reached unanimously. Finland and Poland sit in the advisory board as observers.
This model has caused a situation where no one carries comprehensive responsibility.
Already two CEOs have resigned. In 2018, Latvian Baiba Rubesa stood down after three years while Finnish Timo Riihimäki came to the same conclusion in October 2019 after having the job for only ten months.
“Maybe I should phrase it like this, as a Finn I would prefer being a driver, not a passenger,” Riihimäki told The Finnish Journal of Foreign Affairs in an interview.
A global hunt for a new CEO is on and the process should be completed by Christmas.
(Pekka Vänttinen | EURACTIV.com)