Sanctions turn Estonia's Koidula freight station into ghost station

Koidula station in south eastern Estonia.
Koidula station in south eastern Estonia. Source: ERR

A freight station in southern Estonia has turned into a ghost station due to sanctions imposed after Russia's war in Ukraine but it is not possible to close the station completely.

Since February, 10 workers have been laid off at Koidula station, which is positioned close to Estonia's southeastern border with Russia, and traffic has decreased by more than 50 percent.

More passenger trains arrive at the station than freight trains, Monday's "Aktuaalne kaamera" reported. Only non-sanctioned freight and a little trade from Central Asia come through the border station. 

Before sanctions were imposed, five cargo trains a day passed through the hub, but now sometimes there is not even one a day.

As additional sanctions on wood are due to kick in July, the situation is likely to get worse.

"At the moment, we have lost about 80 percent of our volumes, the biggest blow was to fertilizers," said Marko Paatsi, head of Operail's sales department.

Operail has made 10 station workers redundant and 80 members of Operail's staff have been let go since February.

"In essence, it can be said that freight traffic to Russia will stop altogether and, as a result, the situation will probably ge even darker in the future," said Paatsi.

Estonian Railways has made two people redundant and must still pay costs for the upkeep of the station. The biggest expense is lighting, which has been reduced by approximately a third.

The Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) also uses the station and the two entities must decide on what the situation should be in the future, Arthur Reichmann, Estonian Railways commercial manager said.

Reichmann said, while there is little freight, many wagons are still parked at the station and need to be repositioned.

Operail is currently discussing the future of the station, which it says has annual operating costs of around €1 million. Estonian Railways says it has no plans to close the station.


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Editor: Helen Wright

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