EUROPE: Ignas Degutis has set out his priorities for the Rail Baltica project, having been appointed Interim CEO of tri-national project promoter RB Rail following the resignation of Baiba Rubesa.

Rubesa held a personal press conference immediately after resigning on September 27, during which she strongly criticised the way the project was being handled by the governments of the three Baltic States.

‘The current priority for me is to ensure a continuity of all ongoing project activities’, said Degutis, who joined RB Rail in June 2017 as Chief Financial Officer, a role which he retains while also acting as Interim CEO.

His first priority is to make progress with development of detailed technical designs in all three Baltic States. Degutis said six bidders had prequalified to tender for each of the two detailed technical design contracts covering Lithuania and Estonia.

Degutis reassured the supply industry that the contractual process would continue, with 26 more tenders expected to be called by the end of the year and around 60 planned for 2019.

His second priority is to reach agreements on a two-year budget and a long-term financing model for RB Rail, as these are preconditions for receiving further financing from the EU’s Connecting Europe Facility which is expected to cover 85% of the cost of the railway.

‘Last but not least, it is important to finalise the business and operational plans as well as the infrastructure management study, which will conclude the planning phase of the project and will lay the foundation for successful operation of Rail Baltica’, he said.

Following Rubesa’s departure, European Co-ordinator for the TEN-T North Sea-Baltic Corridor Catherine Trautmann thanked her for ‘the high level of dedication and effort’ she had shown as CEO. ‘It is a great achievement that the joint venture has grown from a start-up sized organisation to a professional team of over 50 members of staff, who are steering the Rail Baltica project through the planning and now the design phase’, Trautmann said. ‘Rubesa has greatly contributed to the credibility of the project, and laid the solid foundations for the further implementation steps.’

Rail Baltica ‘is set to deliver, within less than a decade from now, a new economic corridor in the northeast of Europe’, Trautmann added. ‘It is the responsibility of the shareholders to make sure that the joint venture has the means to accomplish the intermediate steps and ensure the high level of co-operation and trust among the partners that is necessary to achieve this goal.’