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Latvian government’s and industry experts’ opinions for transport sector go on two different paths

Photo: pixabay.com.
What is the situation with Latvia’s roads? What results have been achieved in passenger transport field? Is there development observed for railway transports, and what is happening with the country’s transit sector? Looking at the past two years, Latvian Transport Minister Uldis Augulis mentions major developments for nearly all transport and communications sectors. Industry experts, on the other hand, are of a different opinion.

The government claims that the state of the country’s main roads has improved. Latvian road construction association disagrees.

Transport ministry notes that important maintenance work has been performed on the country’s main roads, adding that the state of roads have been improved significantly. Regional and local roads were repaired as well. The same applies to bridges. Work was performed on a total of 1,141 km of roads in 2016 and 1,100 km in 2017.

The planned funding for state roads network in 2018 is EUR 307 million, which is EUR 35.8 million more than last year. Augulis says the largest funding of recent years has been provided for maintenance of local gravel roads.

‘For many years gravel roads in Latvia have been neglected. Because of lacking funding, their state has become very poor. This year’s planned road maintenance is the most expansive in Latvia’s history. A total of EUR 33.7 million, which is at least three times more than the funding allocated in the last five years. While planning road maintenance, I also continue working on restoration of the Road Fund to secure stable and targeted funding for state roads. Both society and the industry expect that,’ says Augulis.

Although Augulis believes the situation with roads in Latvia has improved dramatically, Latvijas Ceļu būvētājs voices an entirely different opinion: ‘The catastrophic situation we see on Latvia’s roads is the consequence of the policy that has been present since 2004, when the Road Fund was liquidated. The money paid by residents for using roads was used for some unknown purposes, but definitely not on road repairs.’

BNN had previously reported that the association had mentioned that degrading gravel roads in 169 locations throughout Latvia cause traffic restrictions along a total distance of 1,300 km. Those roads are important for municipalities, businesses and residents of rural regions.

Improvements added to passenger transport regulations

The ministry notes that passenger transport routes have been actively improved to ensure better accessibility of services and better interconnection of administrative territories. An appropriate regulation has been adopted to ensure Road Transport Directorate is able to create an information system to keep track of state-provided public transport benefits and keep electronic records to help public transport service providers identify benefit recipients, says the transport minister.

What is happening with transit industry?

Hot talks were present in transit industry last year.

As previously noted by Baltic Association – Transport and Logistics President Inga Antāne, Latvijas dzelzceļš carried 43 million tonnes of cargoes in 2017, which is the lowest volume of cargoes in the past fifteen years. «On top of that, there are not reasons to expect cargo volumes to stop declining – the lowest point has yet to be reached,» BATL warns.

Antāne had previously mentioned the severity of the situation, saying that «inaction has already created serious problems for Latvia’s national economy, and those problems will become topical for all residents». The minister, however, provided a completely different look at things. «The increase of container cargoes experienced by Latvian ports in 2017 is a positive development – the increase was 15.9%, which is the best index we’ve seen so far», the minister said.

Augulis also mentioned strengthened cooperation with China in the development of railway transports. «Several test trains to and from Chine were organized. At the same time, we have created a route to India, and have commenced cooperation with Lianyungang port in China. This cooperation is important for attraction of cargoes from Japan and South Korea,» says Augulis.

Aviation sector reaches the stars

The ministry emphasizes that rapid and successful development has been continuing in the aviation industry for years now. The minister says Riga International Airport had serviced more than six million passengers last year, which indicates successful development of the airport as an important air traffic hub.

«One other important point of contribution is also the development of Liepaja airport. The airport has been certified for summer and winter flights. In May 2017, airBaltic commenced regular flights on the Liepaja-Riga route, improving the region’s accessibility and contributing to the region’s economic development,» said the minister.

In 2017, airBaltic carried a total of 3,523,300 passengers or 22% more than the year before to different destinations in Europe, Scandinavia, Russia, CIS and the Middle East.

This is the largest number of passengers carried in the airline’s history, airBaltic reports.

Advantages provided by railway remain unused

In an interview with BNN, Baltic Express board chairman Māris Bremze mentioned: «Railway infrastructure in Latvia is in good shape. However, it is used at 25-30% of its total capacity. 70% of the railway network remains unused for cargo or passenger transports.»

Transport Ministry claims that the number of railway passengers has been growing steadily for the past two years. A total of 17,074,906 passengers were carried by rail in 2016 (1.1% more than 2015). The number of passengers carried in 2017 was 17,333,380.

Augulis says while the number of passengers continues to decrease in other forms of public transport, Pasažieru vilciens continues registering more and more passengers. Last year, the company carried 1.5% more passengers than it did in 2016. The increase in diesel train sector was 4.5%.


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