State rail operator Eesti Raudtee will be getting €12 million in support as part mitigation of its 2022 losses of around €20 million, the company's director says. The deficit, which will grow in 2023, largely follows sanctions put in place on the Russian Federation and Belarus, following the invasion on Ukraine.
The deficit for 2023 is expected to be even higher, at €25 million.
Meanwhile, EU support for projects on existing rail lines is barred on those tracks, such as in Estonia, which are the same gauge as used in the Russian Federation.
Speaking to Vikerraadio "Uudis+" Eesti Raudtee board chair Kaido Zimmermann, said: "We will miss out on about €20 million this year, which the state has already allocated €12 million towards recovering, leaving €8 million still missing as of today."
Freight rail transport inside Estonia has grown a little, mainly relating to oil shale transport, since the fuel is currently being used again to generate electricity, Zimmermann added.
In addition, one Eesti Raudtee train per week transports wood chips, for the same purpose.
Freight carrier Operail has if anything started transporting between the port of Muuga and Tartu more than it had been, while scope for grain transport inside Estonia is also available, Zimmermann said.
Of freight rail still traveling outside Estonia, container trains, including cooking oils processed in Paldiski, are passing via the Koidula border in the southeast of the country, while small volumes of cargo are "trickling in" either from or via the Russian Federation, including from some of the Central Asian Republics, the Eesti Raudtee director continued.
Last year's deficit ran at €16.4 million, Zimmermann said. At at time when close two eight freight trains crossed the border into Estonia per day (in August 2021) via three crossings, compared with around three on average at present – the result of sanctions placed on Russia.
Issues faced by grid operator Elektrilevi and electricity supplier Elering may mean the electrification of stretches of track may be delayed, he added, though renovation to the Tallinn-Tartu line will still go ahead, to 2024.
The planned Haapsalu rail extension will not be affected in terms of sanctions with regard to rail construction materials, Zimmermann added, though it may affect any potential restoration of the Valga-Antsla-Võru-Koidula line, in South Estonia, he said.
Additional problems arise from the EU declining to provide support to rail infrastructure of the same gauge as in Russia – 1.520 mm, compared with 1.524 mm in Finland and 1.435 mm in most other EU nations (save for Ireland, Portugal and Spain) – which may also threaten the planned Tallinn circular rail link, Zimmerman said.
The planned Rail Baltica high-speed north-to-south link will use the standard European 1.435mm gauge.
Editor: Andrew Whyte