Aasmäe: Electric Train Service Must Reflect Changed Geography
Hardo Aasmäe, economic geographer and former mayor of Tallinn, says that Estonia should consider electrifying three major railway lines from the capital - Tapa, Rapla and Haapsalu - as the current infrastructure still reflects Soviet-era strategic considerations.
In a Postimees opinion, Aasamäe expressed astonishment that the recent introduction of new electric trains - an almost universally praised event - was beset by problems involving rail renovation. "It's all the more mystifying considering that the concession holder Elektriraudtee and infrastructure operator Estonian Railways are owned by the same entity, the state."
"Elektriraudtee has been given the job of making electric train use flower, but I wonder if they are up to the task given the way things are right now," he said, noting that the trip from Pääsküla to Tallinn takes as long as it did in 1946 and the trip from Saue (a bedroom community) to Tondi is slower than it was in the 1960s.
"Elektriraudtee has pledged to restore Soviet-era frequency and the future will show what will become of speeds. According to the plan, the Soviet train era will come back again, but there's the rub: we've unintentionally started to modernize what is basically a Soviet-era railway legacy," he said.
One electrified line ends at Paldiski, formerly a top-secret nuclear sub base still making an awkward transition to the civilian era, with spurs and stops at garrison towns. Another route terminated at a sovkhoz at Riisipere, with a giant prison camp and mine along the way at Vasalemma. The route to the east ended at Aegviidu, another area of military compounds. There was a plan to electrify the Rapla line, as it was to be the evacuation route for a nuclear attack, but as the detente era started in the mid-1970s the plan was never implemented.
"Today there is no more Soviet power, state farms, naval bases with nuclear reactors or direct nuclear threat," writes Aasmäe, in making the case for electrifying the Aegviidu-Tapa, Rapla and Haapsalu lines.