Latvia - Infrastructure, power, and communications

Latvia possesses 2,406 kilometers (1,495 miles) of railroads that extend toward Russia, Belarussia, and the other Baltic States. Both they and the cars that roll across them are aging and in need of repair. A network of 59,178 kilometers (36,773 miles) of roads, roughly a third of which are paved, allows access to all regions of the country. While private car ownership has risen in that last years, railways and buses transport the majority of commuters.

Major seaports located at Riga, Ventspils, and Liepaja, which remain ice free throughout the year, are superbly linked to both rails and an extensive network of roads, allowing the domestic and international transportation of goods. Latvia, which is dependent on the importation of fuels, also serves as a transit area for outgoing supplies. The port of Ventspils is the terminus for the Volga Urals oil pipeline (which extends into Russia) and can simultaneously accommodate 3 large tankers. The port at Liepaja, the deepest port in the Baltic Sea, was formerly operated for Soviet military purposes and is in need of major modification for commercial purposes. The port at Riga, the busiest in Latvia, is responsible for the greatest movement of trade goods.

Oil and gas are imported into Latvia from Russia and help to fuel industries and the 2 thermal power plants near Riga. In addition, 3 hydroelectric dams along Latvia's largest river, the Daugava, add to the power supply, but still electricity is imported to feed this most industrialized Baltic State.

Privatization has caused a reconstruction in Latvia's telecommunications network. In 1994, 49 percent of the system was sold to a British-Finnish telecommunications consortium and international communications became available at standard international rates. The privatized telecommunications company, Lattelcom, is working toward a fully digitized network by 2012, thus alleviating the problem of unmet demand due to a shortage of lines. In 1997 there were 748,000 main telephone lines in use, and in 1999, 175,348 cellular phones in use.

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