Ferry ticket prices between the mainland and the islands of Saaremaa and Hiiumaa will rise from March 1 in a move which on local government leader says was made over the heads of authorities and businesses on the islands. The price rises do not apply to island residents.
"Understandably, price increases are difficult, but given the rising costs and the need for ever closer connections, this is unavoidable," Martin Lengi, director of the mobility planning service at the Transport Board (Transpordiamet) said.
Ferries are operated by TS Laevad, a subsidiary of the Port of Tallinn (Tallinna Sadam), a state-owned concern.
"This year, the volume of travel on both passenger ferry lines has risen as much as possible, to ensure a tighter timetable in accordance with the wishes of the local community. Further growth in the volume of travel can only come with the reconstruction of an additional ship or ports and waterways," Lengi went on.
"We are currently looking for a passenger ferry to be chartered between the major islands to provide an even tighter travel schedule in the future, according to the wishes and needs of the community," he added.
16,700 trips on the Saaremaa route are planned for 2022, a seven-percent rise on 2021, along with 5,888 trips on the Hiiumaa route, four percent more than last year.
Ticket prices for island residents will remain unchanged, but for everyone else, Saaremaa ferry tickets will rise €1.29 to €4.29, with vehicle tickets set to increase in price by €3.60, to €12.00.
The respective price rises on the Hiiumaa ferry route are €1.46 (to €4.86) and €4.29 (to €14.29).
Hiimaa rural municipality mayor Hergo Tasuja hit out at the developments, calling the economics affairs minister's decision to raise prices a bad one and saying local stakeholders had been left out of the decision-making and that price hikes would better suit from January 1 next year.
"At the time of publishing the press release [announcing the price rises], no impact assessments or a final draft of the regulation had been submitted. Answers to questions sent by the business associations have not been answered," he told ERR.
"The proposal from the major islands to calmly negotiate and agree on a price increase between the parties and to implement that price increase from January 1 2023 is completely reasonable, especially today, when all input prices are rising anyway," he continued.
Trust built up since the initial announcement of price rises and the postponement of that plan has now been seriously eroded, he went on, adding that the final version of the draft regulation was supposed to be previewed before being introduced.
Tasuja said he and the mayors of Muhu and Saaremaa municipalities had met economics affairs minister Taavi Aas at the end of 2021 to discuss the issue, while a wider discussion was held at the ministry early on in January.
A decision for a 50 percent ferry ticket price hike made late last year was postponed, following a meeting between local and national government representatives.
Editor: Andrew Whyte