The rapid rise in the number of train passengers in Estonia over recent years has created a need for state-owned rail operator Elron to increase the size of its fleet. To help meet the growing demand, Elron signed a contract with the Škoda Group in December for the construction of 10 new trains, the production of which is already underway.
"In 2022, the number of train passengers increased by more than a million compared to the year before," said Elron project manager Viljar Luchtein.
"At the moment, there are 37 trains, which serve passengers, however it is clear that significant additions are needed to Elron's train fleet in order to meet customer expectations," he said.
In 2020, Elron signed a contract with Škoda for the purchase of six electric trains, with the possibility of acquiring a further ten, an option the government approved in September last year.
Elron then signed a new contract with Škoda in December, meaning the size of its fleet will increase by 40 percent to 54 by 2027.
Luchtein pointed out that, as Estonia has a colder climate than many other countries in Europe, the trains need to be able to withstand rapidly changing weather conditions, particularly in winter.
"Preparations for the production of the train's bulk structure began in December, which means that welding work is now at the initial phase and, in a few weeks, the train will be ready for assembly. The trains will be built on the RegioPanter platform, which is also used in the Czech Republic and Slovakia," said Luhthein.
The new three-car trains will each be 83.18 meters long, in comparison to the four-car trains currently in use, which measure 75 meters in length. They will also have wider boarding areas and additional space for bicycles and passengers with prams as well as designated places for passengers with wheelchairs. All seats on the new trains will be numbered and there will also be a dining car.
According to the agreed schedule, the first Škoda train is set to arrive in Estonia in the first quarter of 2024, after which it will need to be properly set up for use and undergo a period of testing. It is therefore expected to be fully operational from December 2024.
The trains are being manufactured at the Škoda Group's Ostrava plant in the Czech Republic. Their acquisition will cost a total of €90.7 million and is covered by the European Union's Modernization Fund.
Before the new trains arrive, Elron also plans to announce a competition to name them. Anyone interested can participate to ensure that the new trains get the most fitting names.
Editor: Michael Cole