Metro: a mythological beast or a panacea for Vilnius residents?

Moscow metro
Vida Press

The Vilnius metro project is economically inert and the state has much more significant problems. This is what the news portal was told by the head of the Seimas Committee of Economics, Lithuanian Farmer and Greens Union group member Virginijus Sinkevičius. “Everyone understands that the metro is a mythological beast,” he assured. However according to the Metro Movement association executive chairman Juozas Zykus the traffic jams which will begin in autumn will be eye opening for members of Seimas.

In spring 2016 articles appeared in news media that the idea of Vilnius metro is being revived, in May that year the metro implementation legislative project was discussed by the Committee of Economics.

The cabinet also returned to the question in autumn, considering how such a project could be legislated on. Already in last term’s Seimas, in November there was support for a Metro implementation legislative project, however voting for the legislation being included in the agenda was not done and was expected to be done by the new term’s Seimas.

However in December the new Seimas decided that the voting is to be removed from the agenda. It was not returned to in the spring session either and Committee of Economics head V. Sinkevičius says that nothing tangible was done during the last half year and doubts whether the question will be returned to in autumn.

“There is little enthusiasm and everyone understands that this metro is a mythological beast and there are more important projects than it,” the Farmer and Greens group member said.

The executive chairman for the Metro Movement association J. Zykus hopes that autumn traffic jams will be eye opening for members of Seimas and the legislation will return to the table in the autumn session. He intends to take initiative regarding this himself as well. “The longest and most expensive stage anywhere in the world is the political decision,” he said.

According to J. Zykus, last term’s Seimas had over 100 MPs who were familiar with and supported the idea of a metro system, however from among the current “Farmers” there are only seven such. He says that currently some 50 members of Seimas have formed a metro support group.

Zykus has spoken for a time now that there are foreign investors interested in the construction of a metro system in Vilnius. He says that this spring he met with Farmer and Greens group chairman Ramūnas Karbauskis and presented him with a proposal for metro construction.

“The proposal was signed by 110 public figures, half of which were professors, several academics, several politicians such as Aleksandras Abišala or Gediminas Vagnorius, former members of Seimas and when we took it to him, he asked where the funding will be from. Then I invited representatives for those investors and we wrote up a protocol that a fund in Hong Kong is looking for an opportunity to invest 10 billion euro, a Polish fund – half a billion euro,” R. Zykus said, adding that one French company and the German Siemens are awaiting a political decision.

Meanwhile V. Sinkevičius does not take such investors seriously.

“When there is an investor, things develop very differently, Invest Lithuania become involved and such. Consider this, Siemens come to Lithuania and say “we want to build you a metro.” Do you believe that R. Šimašius would not immediately sign an agreement with them? I invite you to look realistically at this,” the MP spoke sceptically.

V. Sinkevičius also states that currently the project is economically inert and based on preliminary calculations by Invest Lithuania, trip prices would be so high that to survive, the Vilnius municipality would be forced to provide constant financial support.

“There are no businesses that do charity. If the investor is financing it, it will expect the project to pay off. Everyone wants a payoff within 15-20 years, no-one will build a metro for free and hope it will pay off in a few centuries. Such investment does not happen,” V. Sinkevičius explained. According to him the metro implementation law is not the key obstacle.

Last spring the executive chairman of Metro Movement J. Zykus stated that the project should be developed as soon as possible, while European Union funding could still be obtained. He presents an example that more than half of the costs of the Warsaw, Madrid and Athens metro systems were financed by the EU.

Based on plans by the Metro Movement, the first line in Vilnius would run from the town centre to Pilaitė district. It would cost around half a billion euro according to J. Zykus.

The first talks of a potential metro system in Vilnius began already in the 1980s.

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