18:43 GMT +325 May 2019
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    Rail Baltica: Who Benefits From $4 Bln Railway Project in the Baltics?

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    Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania plan to construct a new railway as part of a $4 billion project that is aimed at integrating the three nations into the European railway network, but NATO will be the only beneficiary since the initiative is not economically feasible, political analyst Dmitry Abzalov asserted.

    The endeavor, formally known as Rail Baltiсa, is meant to link Finland, the three Baltic States and Poland with a railway that uses standard, 1,435 mm track gauge, as opposed to the 1,520 mm broad gauge common in the Baltics.

    If built, the North Atlantic Alliance will use the new routes to deploy its military equipment to the Baltic region faster. The bloc is currently working on measures that deal with the free movement of NATO forces across Europe.

    "Estonia does not make a secret of the fact that the party most interested in the project is NATO," the Vzglyad newspaper asserted.

    Should the project be carried out, the bloc will no longer have to transport military hardware and equipment by sea to Riga and then by rail to the point of destination in the region.

    The new railroad "is meant to create a single [transport] network with Europe," Abzalov, president of the Center for Strategic Communications, told the business daily. But the project, in his view, is not economically feasible.

    "They will need to replace their old network to build a new one," he said. "It is a very expensive and unprofitable initiative for Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, especially when it comes to freight trains."

    The construction is expected to begin in 2019 and end in 2026. The new railway system will transport 5 million passengers and 16 million tons of cargo.

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    Tags:
    infrastructure project, railroad, NATO, Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia
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