Estonia invests 122.5 million in rail in 2021

In the plans of Estonia’s new government, developing the railways is a key feature. Among the projects are the further electrification of the railways, the construction of the international passenger terminals of Tallinn and Pärnu and the acquisition of electric trains. Also, the undersea tunnel to Finland is back on the agenda. The country’s infrastructure manager Eesti Raudtee, operator Elron, Rail Baltica Estonia, and freight company Operail will invest in the country’s railways for 122.5 million euros.

Following the installation of a new government in Estonia, investments in the country’s railway system are also announced. “A fast and green railway to the heart of Europe will be completed, the national railway will be electrified and speeds will be increased to 160 kilometres”, said Estonia’s Minister of Economic Affairs and Infrastructure Taavi Aas. He says that with the developments for 122.5 million euros, the government “wants to gain momentum to create a greener, faster and safer infrastructure”.

The investments and developments to be made by infrastructure manager Eesti Raudtee for almost 53 million euros in 2021 are planned to continue with electrification, modernisation of safety systems, increasing the capacity of stations and building stops more conveniently. The development of the Turba-Rohuküla railway will also continue, in the light of which projects from Turba to Rist will be completed and design will start from Rist to Haapsalu. Eesti Raudtee also focuses on making the entire infrastructure and its intersections safer and on automating traffic management processes.

Electrification

At present, the only electrified railway in Estonia is located in Harju County, to the West of the capital, Tallinn. This network stretches 225 kilometres and runs on 3 kVdc. A Spanish joint venture comprised of the Ardanuy Ingeniería and Ayesa has been awarded the electrification project for the Estonian rail network. The works being carried out by the Spanish companies will modernise the national network’s connections and provide Estonia with electrified rail for the whole country, the ultimate goal of this project being to ensure that transport needs for both passenger and freight traffic are successfully met.

In order to execute this modernisation initiative, which includes over 500 kilometres of tracks, the Ardanuy-Ayesa joint venture will also be in charge of the preliminary design of these works.

Rail Baltica

The Rail Baltica project is developing a new railway infrastructure and economic corridor with standard European gauge rail, linking Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania into Poland and beyond. Rail Baltica Estonia will direct at least 45 million euros to construction this year. In the first half of 2021, Rail Baltica plans to sign cooperation agreements with almost all municipalities where railway stops will be built, in order to start detailed plans and designs quickly. In the beginning of the year, the international passenger terminals of Tallinn and Pärnu will also be built, and the construction of at least 14 facilities will be procured.

“We will also look into possibilities to connect Tallinn and Helsinki as twin cities by railway”, said infrastructure minister Aas. With the coalition agreement, the new government has decided to put a tunnel between Estonia’s capital Tallinn and Finland’s capital Helsinki back on the agenda, which was opposed by the previous Estonian government. The plans mention to reach common accords with Finland on how to proceed with the tunnel project.

Estonia finances the reconstruction of the railway section between Lelle and Pärnu belonging to Edelaraudtee AS for Rail Baltica material transportation with 5.8 million euros from Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) funds, an EU funding instrument to promote growth, jobs and competitiveness through targeted infrastructure investments.

Electric trains

Estonian operator Elron started this year with switching its electric trains only to trains that run on renewable energy. The newly ordered trains are environmentally friendly electric trains that will enter the railways at the end of 2024, when the electrified Tallinn-Tartu railway line will be completed. Elron has also tightened its timetable and will continue to improve the ticketing system this year to offer passengers more flexibility and bring card payment to on-board ticket machines.

Rail freight company Operail will continue with the preliminary work required for the construction of a hydrogen locomotive and will build six new modernised C30-M locomotives during this year. In addition, Operail will start construction work on the first LNG line locomotive in the Baltics and the surrounding region. Operail also plans to reduce paperwork and introduce new freight information system RailCube, and is continuing to develop a multimodal freight service to bring more goods from road to rail.

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Author: Esther Geerts

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