The Ministry of Economic Affairs has lost a court case to the train operator Edelaraudtee, putting pressure on officials ahead of plans to hand over intercity passenger lines to another company in January.
Tallinn Administrative Court ruled that the government acted beyond its rights last July, when it awarded a contract for running Estonia's passenger trains without holding a public tender. The contract, signed with state-owned company Elron, has been terminated for the time being.
The Public Procurement Appeals Committee had said in September that the contract was legally invalid, after Edelaraudtee, which is the current operator, disputed the decision.
Challenging the appeals committee, the ministry had based its case on EU law, but the court found that the contract had violated the Estonian Transport Act. The ministry had also challenged whether the committee was authorized to review the matter and whether Edelaraudtee had submitted its dispute in a timely manner. The court sided with Edelaraudtee.
The ministry has made clear that it intends for Elron to take over passenger trains, but Edelaraudtee is unhappy if only for the fact that its contract was terminated early.
The ministry now has 30 days to appeal the case.