Tartu's aim of opening a rail link to Riga by 2024 would be possible with state aid. The connection would require €500,000-700,000 in annual subsidies.
"Latvian passenger rail carrier Pasažieru vilciens has agreed to lengthen the Riga-Valka line as far as Tartu. /---/ The extension would cost €500,000-700,000 a year, which is why state budget funding should be considered," a report on future Estonia-Latvia relations suggests.
Tartu Mayor Urmas Klaas (Reform) told ERR on Monday that he has pursued the rail link with vigor, and that a connection to Riga as a portal to the rest of the world would be important also in the context of European Capital of Culture Tartu 2024. "However, it would require state subsidies, at least initially, and an agreement between the Estonian and Latvian governments," Klaas said.
Estonian Railways CFO Arthur Raichmann told ERR that once the financial side is agreed, the technical preparations should not take long.
"Once the commercial packages are set, carriers signed and the money side negotiated, the carrier can file a throughput application with Estonian Railways. A classic declaration of wanting to use a section of the railroad at given times etc. Next, we would approve the request and operation could begin. That's all there is to it, and we are ready to accommodate," Raichmann said.
He added that Estonian Railways is waiting for the client's input – whether it will be the Tartu city government or someone else in charge of payment.
"Estonian Railways is an enabler in this. We will agree on the timetable with our Latvian colleagues and make sure throughput capacity is sufficient and fits the needs of passengers and organizers."
"What I've taken away from the process so far is that it is the city of Tartu doing the contracting," Raichmann added.
He said that the main investment is finding the train to operate the connection. "There aren't any other major investments involved. The stations are there, traffic control is operational anyway, and I see no other obstacles."
Urmas Klaas said that the Latvian operator should have a suitable train. "I have taken a look at the train meant to operate the link," Klaas added. He said that the train was built in Riga 20 years and thoroughly renovated a decade ago.
The Estonian-Latvian future relations report also lists a possible timetable. The train would depart Riga at 6.16 p.m. and arrive in Tartu at 10.10 p.m. The train would depart for Riga at 4 a.m. arriving at 7.45 a.m. Passengers would be offered more convenient departure times during weekends, the report reads.
It would not be possible to go straight from Tartu to the Riga airport and back. A link between the Riga Central Station and airport will be built as part of Rail Baltica.
Editor: Marcus Turovski