The country's new fleet of passenger trains can potentially travel at up to 160 kilometers per hour, but it will take 10 years of track and crossing renovations before they can hope to achieve that speed, said an Estonian Railways official.
In the next few years, the trains will continue to travel at a top speed of 120 kph, just like trains currently do on certain segments of the track.
"The railroad ties and rails are about 40 percent ready for speeds greater than 120 kph, but the traffic management system is not, and needs to be rebuilt. Crossings and platforms also will have to observe certain rules to enable trains to pass at high speed," said Estonian Railways infrastructure director Arvo Šmiltins.
"Crossings are undoubtedly one of the greatest risk sources in railway traffic and thus it must be a priority to convert level-grade crossings to split level ones. But if we're talking about speeds between 120-160 km/h, in principle, level grade crossings are acceptable," said Šmiltins.
Estonian Railways currently has 157 level-grade crossings. Three-quarters of them have automatic traffic signals or a barrier arm. If speeds are in excess of 120 kph, the crossings must by law be equipped by barrier arms on both sides, and white blinking lights.
Money for the improvements would have to come from the EU.
"To convert our main lines - Tallinn-Tapa-Tartu and Tapa-Narva lines - to allow speeds of 160 kph, 200 million euros in investment would be required. It would be realistic to reach speeds of 140 km/h within five years, but for higher speeds, not before ten years."