Major world-class companies see Rail Baltica as a joint Baltic project – the scope of the work is large, and the financing is largely provided by the European Union.
According to experts, these are the most important factors that attract international construction companies with big names to the Rail Baltica project.
According to Danas Šmigelskas, Managing Director of Leonhard Weiss Lietuva, large Western companies are interested in complex infrastructure projects that require specific expertise.
„Rail Baltica is a high-speed railway line whose infrastructure in the Baltic States is being built from scratch. Building a modern railway requires knowledge, highly specialised expertise and sufficient capital, human and technological resources“, says Šmigelskas.
In addition to Leonhard Weiss, the international companies involved in the Rail Baltica project include other big names.
Rizzani de Eccher, the Italian company that won the tender issued by LTG Infra, will build the longest railway bridge across the Neris River in the Baltic States. It is a complex engineering structure with no water support to protect the Natura 2000 site. The bridge over the Neris is crucial for the construction of the railway line to Latvia and is expected to take 2.5 years to complete.
The Italian company Rizzani de Eccher has carried out complex infrastructure projects in the USA, Canada, the UK, Turkey, and various countries in Central America, Asia and Africa.
The Baltic Joint Undertaking RB Rail has announced that three international consortia have been awarded the second phase of the procurement of the design and construction of the Rail Baltica energy subsystem.
The subsystem billed as Europe's largest cross-border rail electrification project, will be installed in a consolidated manner along the entire 870 km main line from Tallinn to the Lithuanian-Polish border and from Kaunas to Vilnius.
The international consortia selected are COBELEC Rail Baltica from Spain, ALSTOM-BMGS-GE-Torpol from Latvia, France and Poland and STC Baltic Electrification from France, Germany and Latvia.
Management of complex projects
According to Dan Šmigelskas, Managing Director of Leonhard Weiss Lietuva, the smooth operation of modern construction in complex infrastructure projects depends to a large extent on the ability to manage the operational process properly.
„Good project management requires highly qualified knowledge and professional skills. Proper organisation of work involves not only the construction itself but also risk management,“ says Šmigelskas.
Founded in 1900, the German company Leonhard Weiss specialises in complex engineering solutions, including railways and bridges. Among the German company's works are highly complex railway junctions in the German and Swiss Alps and Scandinavia.
„Leonhard Weiss, which started out as a family-owned company, is now one of the oldest and most experienced companies in the railway construction business, not only in Germany but also in Europe. Our strength lies in our specialisation in the construction of a wide range of complex projects. Wherever we build a railway, we can also build bridges, viaducts, communication and infrastructure lines so that the client has everything at his fingertips. Rail Baltica is a project that requires a combination of very different competencies,“ says Šmigelskas.
Works at Kaunas railway junction
The modernisation of the Kaunas-Palemonas section of the Kaunas railway junction required just such a wide range of competencies. A consortium of companies led by Leonhard Weiss completed the contract work on this section in 2021.
This section of the Kaunas railway junction is considered to be a very important part of the whole Rail Baltica project.
A project of this complexity has been achieved despite not only engineering and technical challenges but also unforeseen circumstances. At the end of 2019, the general contractor, Hidrostatybas, had to be replaced as the court opened restructuring proceedings against the latter.
The general contractor, Hidrostatyba, had to withdraw from the project after it went bankrupt. This unforeseen circumstance threatened to halt all works on the Kaunas-Palemonas section until another contractor was selected following a new tender.
Hidrostatyba, which went bankrupt, had to withdraw from the project, which threatened to halt all works on the Kaunas-Palemonas section until another contractor was selected following the launch and conclusion of a new call for tenders for the contract works.
Recognising the strategic importance of Rail Baltica for the whole region, and in order not to slow down the work in progress, it was Leonhard Weiss that took responsibility and decided to take over the management of the contracting works on the high-profile section of Rail Baltica.
Leonhard Weiss became the main managing partner of the joint operation and took over the management of the entire project until the end of the contract. The consortium led by the company has successfully managed the project and connected the Kaunas railway station with the Kaunas Intermodal Terminal in Palemone via the European railway line. According to the experts' assessment, cases where a company takes over the responsibility to take over the management of a joint operation in a critical situation are not common practices in Lithuania when managing complex projects.
Complex engineering solutions
Part of the work was carried out in the unique Kaunas railway tunnel, excavated in the 19th century, which houses a section of the interconnected European and broad gauge railway. One of Rail Baltica's most complex engineering solutions was built in Kaunas: a four-arch railway viaduct for cars and pedestrians.
Modernising the railway required simultaneous upgrading of all the infrastructure crossing or running alongside it – from drainage, electricity and water supply networks to electric lighting and trolleybus lines.
The company intends to play an active role in the construction of Rail Baltica in all three Baltic States. In Lithuania, the company expects to work on the section of Rail Baltica from Kaunas to the Lithuanian-Latvian border.
„We have already passed the tender organised by LTG Infra, which is responsible for the implementation of the Rail Baltica project in Lithuania, and selected companies with the necessary qualifications to install the superstructure of the railway track on the Kaunas-Lithuanian-Latvian border,“ says Šmigelskas.