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Thoughts on Rail Baltica

Berlin, Riga and Vilnius are coming closer 

Rail Baltica will make it possible to transport metal structures, peat, grains, construction materials, as well as Finnish cellulose, to Germany. It will bring tourists to Estonia from Spain, Germany, Poland and China. It will undoubtedly benefit the Estonian economy. With a regular and affordable transport connection, there will be greater opportunities for the Estonian economy to export its industrial production to Central Europe. The flow of tourism in the opposite direction will also lessen our tourism sector’s dependence on Finnish and Russian consumers.

Estonia is in danger of becoming the hinterland of the European Union, a country with well-off neighbours; however, even though we are located far away from both Germany and France, there is still the possibility of being a part of the Nordic countries. The possibility of also travelling south in less time and at a more reasonable price would definitely enrich us and give us more options and choices. In terms of speed, railway travel ranks second behind air transport, and makes it possible to travel faster to destinations located farther away. The construction of the railway would create a faster link with Riga and Vilnius, and beyond.

The fear of failing

The prospective railway is not a guarantee of success in itself. Similarly, the development of Internet infrastructure does not automatically bring about new jobs and higher incomes, if it is not accompanied by a supportive education system, an innovative future outlook for the IT community, and the faith and willingness of investors to invest into new technologies.

At the Rail Baltica seminar, held in April, railway experts from Holland and Sweden emphasised that the construction of a new railway link, supported by the European Union, is not a project based solely on local interests. We should be looking at the bigger picture, as in addition to the transport of goods and passengers, the new link would open up other possibilities in the region, which includes also Finland, Sweden and Russia. We must advertise the options opening up to us in the field of logistics in our neighbouring markets and ensure that the prospective railway infrastructure would be integrated with the existing land and sea links, both internally as well as between our closest neighbours. The Rail Baltica project involves the construction of freight stations in Muuga and Pärnu, and passenger terminals in the Ülemiste area of Tallinn and the city of Pärnu. Looking into the future, this is an opportunity for Estonian tourism entrepreneurs, as well as the production and logistics sectors. As the business plan of Rail Baltica is reviewed, the professional associations of different fields will have the chance to join in the discussion, looking for benefits and opportunities for companies in their respective fields.

Soft and material values for society

Numerous surveys will be conducted in the course of constructing the railway line, for example, archaeological surveys with a planned volume of EUR 1 million. Measures will be implemented to preserve nature and the environment. The project, unprecedented in its financial scale, enables surveys and works to be conducted for which resources have been limited so far. 
Engines running on the Rail Baltica line will be powered by electricity, thereby reducing our dependence on oil, sparing human lives, and reducing the impact of heavy transport on roads. The cross-border infrastructure project will grant an additional opportunity and experience for cooperation between the Baltic States and Finland, and ensure that we have a reliable connection with the rest of Europe. 
The project also involves material benefits: new jobs created during the course of construction, an enlivening of the local construction materials market, lands being bought for the construction of the line, as well as the future maintenance of the railway. The above mentioned benefits can be measured in hundreds of millions of euros. 

Illar Kaasik, Investment Agency OÜ partner