Options for Lasnamäe: railway to Kopli or tramline to Kesklinn

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Balti jaam rail station. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

The idea of a pendulum train between the Tallinn districts of Kopli and Lasnamäe has gained some traction, but it is only plausible if lines stretch further than the capital city, said Lasnamäe district mayor Vladimir Svet (Center). He added that the preferred rail transport for Lasnamäe would instead be a tramline to the city center.

Tallinn's 2035 strategy (link in Estonian) set plenty ambitious targets for the city's future. The strategy focuses on six goals, which cover the topics of urban space, community, green revolution, world city, proximity to home, as well as a healthy and mobile lifestyle.

Included is also a plan to establish train lines to the city borders and their close proximity in the next 15 years. The trains would act as pendulums to meet the movement of working people between the nearby areas of Tallinn to the capital. The goal is to reduce the amount of vehicles in the city.

One line would connect the Kopli peninsula with Lasnamäe and according to a study conducted last year, the line could extend from Kopli to Smuuli tee through Ülemiste, moving deeper into Lasnamäe.

According to Lasnamäe district mayor Vladimir Svet, the potential train line raises many questions. One for example is if it was not more reasonable to focus on a tramline connecting Lasnamäe to the city center Kesklinn district instead.

"For me, Lasnamäe's mayor, the most questionable topic of the study was the idea of taking a train toward Smuuli tee, because we actually have a well-functioning transport artery named Laagne tee. It raises a question of how prioritized should the development of railway infrastructure be from the perspective of Lasnamäe's residents. Considering there are many topics on the table about how Tallinn will further develop tramlines, perhaps some of those could include Lasnamäe," the district mayor told ERR.

One tramline named in Tallinn's 2035 strategy plan would see a tramline extended to Lasnamäe with stops meant for the Tallinn Hospital project and Rahu tee. Other locations in Lasnamäe like Laagna or Peterburi tee are not mentioned. Svet noted however that the strategy plan does not mean all named projects will be seen through.

Laagna tee, also used in Christopher Nolan's "TeneT". Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

"The question is in the priorities. If we are talking about wanting people from Lasnamäe to go toward Kopli and Mustamäe - should the first place to invest in be a train or tram? Lasnamäe has Laagna tee and it is well-serviced with buses. We have a large point of interest in the future - Tallinn Hospital - there is a railway corridor from the Soviet era there. It is logical that it is the choice of the strategy. But we must consider that even if it is planned in the strategy plan, it does not mean it will be developed as is," Svet is.

A potential train only makes sense if it connects to Tallinn's nearby municipalities

Svet said he could understand a train connecting to Kopli peninsula, because there are rapid real estate developments happening there. Thousands of people are moving to the prospective district and connections to the rest of Tallinn leave a lot to be desired.

"We have the Lasnamäe stop for train traffic, which is a difficult topic; we have the Kopli peninsula stop, which might be a little easier - it requires quite a few studies, a lot of investment. At the same time, there is the question of perhaps it being possible to add extra stops between the Balti Jaam rail station and Ülemiste with the infrastructure already available. It would not require as much investments and principal decisions as taking an intra-city train to the peak of Kopli peninsula," Svet noted.

The Center politician added that Kopli certainly needs some solutions to improve movement. "If we want Põhja-Tallinn and Kopli peninsula in particular to keep developing to their potential, we must solve the issue of movement. How can we ensure people access to employment and to the rest of Tallinn. And why not to nearby municipalities," he said.

According to the district mayor, the idea of a pendulum train would be logical if it would not just be limited to Tallinn. "I think this idea has legs only if we look at it regionally. It cannot just be a Tallinn-only project. It makes sense if we look at what it means in the context of county and nation. If we add that context, there are new options and its profitability would likely improve," Svet said.

There are no studies into the profitability of the potential train line yet, but Svet said it is the goal of the next round of studies looking into the project.

"At the end, we must make it clear to ourselves how much all this would cost and what we would gain - what is its effect to our entire transport network. From Tallinn's position, Lasnamäe's position, a tramline is more important from a development perspective than an inter-city train. But if we look at it from Harju County and perhaps from the perspective of all of northern Estonia, the train traffic idea should not be pushed off the table," Svet noted.

He added that as the state owns railways and the project would certainly require financial support, the idea of pendulum trains cannot move forward yet.

The 2035 strategy plan has planned out two routes for the pendulum trains - the first would connect two developing districts, Ülemiste and Kopli. The other line would connect Balti jaam and Laagri. Stations for switching trains would also be created, the largest of which would be in Kristiine, Tondi and Järve. Kristiine would also become a major traffic hub, according to the strategy.

The plan also points out five new potential tramlines: A line connecting Tartu maantee and Pärnu maantee, a tramline from Ülemiste to the Old Harbor, a route to the aforementioned Tallinn Hospital megahospital complex in Lasnamäe, a line to Pelguranna and a line to the fast-developing Rae municipality near Tallinn.

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Editor: Kristjan Kallaste

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