Estonian Rail Transport will become Faster

Tallinn has prepared a draft plan for the development of transport and mobility of the country for 2021-2035 |  Infrastructure

At the end of September, Minister of Economy and Infrastructure Taavi Aas signed the draft Estonian transport and mobility development plan for 2021–2035. The document provides for the modernization of the railway from Tallinn to St. Petersburg.

The plan describes the development of passenger traffic and the acceleration of railways. The Estonian Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications (IEC) plans to increase the number of passengers on railway transport to 20 million people a year (i.e. more than double, now about 8 million) in 15 years.

“To continue the growth of passenger traffic, it is necessary to increase the capacity of railway lines (including the creation of passing points) and the safety of railway crossings,” the draft plan says. “It is important to create an opportunity for non-stop train traffic between major cities and to build multi-level railway crossings.”

It is assumed that in 2035 the travel time from Tallinn to Narva will be 1 hour 45 minutes (now about 2 hours 13 minutes), and to Tartu – 1 hour 30 minutes (now about 1 hour 56 minutes). A report from the ERR news portal says that the appropriate modernization of the railway will require 260 million euros, which is planned to be attracted through loans and EU structural funds.

The draft plan also includes the development of international tourism. For this, according to the plan, it is necessary to modernize the railway from Tallinn to St. Petersburg and speed up border crossing procedures. This will reduce travel time between the two cities to 2–3 hours. The draft plan also notes the importance of the future Tallinn-Helsinki tunnel. However, in the next 15 years, the implementation of the Rail Baltica project (a railway connecting Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia with the countries of Central Europe) is a priority and no investment in the construction of the tunnel is planned.

Much attention is paid in the development plan to reducing the impact of vehicles and systems on the environment. For this, it is planned to electrify part of the railway in the eastern and southern directions of Estonia. The document provides for the introduction of low-carbon fuel in all types of transport, such as hydrogen. More detailed measures for the use of low-carbon fuels will be developed later in cooperation with the Estonian Ministry of the Environment.

When drafting a transport and mobility development plan, IEC made a request to the Structural Reform Support Program (SRSP) of the European Union for an analysis of the Estonian transport system. The research was carried out by the intergovernmental organization International Transport Forum (International Transport Forum, ITF). Michael Clot, the head of ITF’s PR department, told Gudk that the analysis was funded by SRSP and implemented by ITF in cooperation with the European Commission’s Structural Reforms Support Service.

ITF has identified weaknesses in project selection and appraisal rules, resulting in higher costs. The reason is the absence of a department in the IEC, which would be engaged in the development of strategic policy in the field of transport. In addition, there are systemic problems in organizing tenders. The current system does not exclude collusion between bidders.

In addition, the ITF recommended Estonia to take a cautious approach to the use of public-private partnerships (PPPs). The study notes that PPPs provide a higher value for money if the infrastructure operator is able to influence demand through better service quality. But for rail infrastructure, this is less likely.

Also, according to ITF, the implementation of the Rail Baltica project may become a problem for railway construction in Estonia. Experts believe that the cost of its construction will increase and this will reduce the available funds for the implementation of other points of the plan.(

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