This was an academic article written as part of my PhD thesis about the planning of Rail Baltic. The article title is: When the first train departs…Understanding the work of imaginaries in infrastructural renewal in Pärnu, Estonia. It was published in the Journal of Transport Geography in May, 2024.
New international rail projects generate a host of expectations for development, especially in intermediate secondary city-regions. However, these expectations often hide the highly distributive effects of improved accessibility that depend on existing urban hierarchies. This paper challenges the simplistic view of infrastructure renewal addressing uneven geographical development and competitive urbanisation. Focusing on the planning process of Rail Baltic, a key Trans-European Transport Network megaproject, in the secondary city-region of Pärnu, Estonia, it explores the constitutive work of imaginaries as structured expectations in shaping urban hierarchies and infrastructural renewal. By triangulating the analysis of planning documents and media accounts with expert interviews, the study outlines the variegated imaginaries of new rail projects at the regional scale. In particular, it makes visible and critiques how existing place-bound elites utilise imaginaries to influence major infrastructure projects in their favour. The findings contribute to understanding the challenges and opportunities of infrastructural renewal in secondary city-regions, and underline the need for a clear municipal strategy beyond equating increased accessibility with local development.

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