Analysis: €1 billion Tallinn tram and rail integration not costliest option

Trams in Tallinn.
Trams in Tallinn. Source: TLT

Light rail transport analysis says both newly-constructed tram lines and existing railways could be developed to improve connections between Tallinn and its environs. This would cost around €1 billion to 2050, however, though it is not the costliest option on the table.

The analysis says developing tram and train traffic is the best way to reduce dependence on cars and contribute to a more human-friendly mobility environment.

According to the analysis, constructing tram lines is expensive, but the construction of numerous new multi-level junctions would be costlier still, and may fail to achieve its intended purpose, causing another bottleneck as one disappears, the ministry said.

Trains are currently the most rapid public transport within Tallinn city limits, according to BNS.

First analysis of its kind and scale, says ministry

Minister of Economic Affairs and Infrastructure Taavi Aas (Centre) said no analysis of this kind and level of thoroughness has been completed before.

"We now have a very good source document that can be taken into consideration by our municipalities as well as the ministry when planning investments," Aas said in a ministry press release.

Analysis covered a 30-year feasibility period, with profitability assessments drawn up with this in mind.

As noted if all proposals were realized, this would cost over €1 billion in investments to 2050.

The analysis was carried out with the help of the co-financing by the Interreg Baltic Sea program SUMBA project. Its purpose is to demonstrate how urban and peripheral commutes can be made more sustainable, as efficient as possible and involve various types of transport to enhance mobility.

Growing demands of capital

Tallinn mayor Mihhail Kõlvart (Centre) said that developing transport connections is one of the priorities for Tallinn, given its growing population.

"It is no secret that the capacity of our streets is limited. As a result we will focus on developing tram traffic as well as public transport in general," he said, according to BNS, adding that the first plan is to establish a tram connection between Tallinn Airport and the harbor area.

The analysis also highlighted the potential of the Kristiine neighborhood, west of the city center, as a location for a joint terminal, where all transport types could interface in well-connected hub which also provides additional services. This would add 100,000 daily tram passengers alone to the area, on top of existing bus and trolleybus passengers. Kristiine is not served by a tram route currently.

Analysis background

Last autumn the economic affairs ministry signed a cooperation memorandum with the City of Tallinn on improving mobility in the area, after which a mobility council was established with the purpose of reaching agreements regarding action plans and investment needs for the period 2021-2035.

The council's task includes discussing financing options for cooperation projects, and according to the ministry, the newly completed feasibility and cost-benefit analysis of light rail transport is useful input in decision-making regarding future tram traffic development and investment in the region.

The mobility council's priorities also include preparation of an analysis of an integrated management, financing and planning model for mobility in the Tallinn region, which are required to describe different scenarios for improving the functioning of mobility across the administrative borders of the region and creating a unified ticket system throughout Harju County. The analysis also highlighted the need for a single ticketing system.

Tallinn's current tram route system, which primarily predates even the Soviet era or earlier, roughly describes an X-pattern (see map), with a longer line running from the Kopli peninsula in northwest Tallinn to the Ülemiste district in the southeast, and a shorter line running roughly southwest to northeast, from Tondi to Kadriog. Arguments in favor of expanding the tram system include the growth of the commuter belt to the south of the city proper, in addition to the populous districts of Lasnamäe and Mustamäe within the city not even being on any tram route.

Tallinn's existing tram routes. Source: Tallinn Transport

Editor: Andrew Whyte

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