Elron weighing up rail network expansion in Tallinn and beyond

An Elron train in its familiar orange livery.
An Elron train in its familiar orange livery. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

Rail operator Elron is looking at options for expanding its network in Tallinn and its environs, including requisitioning former goods lines, company board member Märt Ehrenpreis says.

The reorganization could in future cut travel times between Tallinn and Tartu to below two hours, along with the higher top speeds of the newer locomotives.

Appearing on Raadio 2's morning show Thursday, Ehrenpreis said: "The top speed of the trains will increase to 160 kilometers per hour. Getting to Tartu in an hour and a half is completely realistic."

Rail services in other directions will be finalized too, most notably to the Western Estonian town of Haapsalu.

While in former times Haapsalu was connected to the capital by rail, this fell into abeyance in the 1990s; the ongoing work to reconnect has so far seen an extension between the villages of Turba, near Tallinn, and Risti, 30km east of Haapsalu.

Ehrenpreis said that the Haapsalu line would be up and running from 2027.

Back in the capital, a new terminal in Kristiine, West of the city center, is also being planned, to interface with the rest of Tallinn's public transport. At present, only three small halts, at Lilleküla, Kitseküla and Ülemiste, are functioning within city limits, in addition to the main Balti jaam terminal.

Rolling stock, too, is to be modernized and replaced, including via a new order from Škoda, to arrive next year.

Ultimately, rail travel in Estonia is in direct competition with private cars as a means of transport.

Ehrenpreis said: "We are competing with cars. We need to attract people from their cars, to the train."

As to where the newly expanded network within Tallinn and environs would be, Ehrenpreis added that: "We have looked at and also planned lines such as Ülemiste-Kopli, Ülemiste-Viimsi-Miiduranna (on the Viimsi peninsula to the North of Tallinn), Viimsi-Maardu and Ülemiste-Keila, to improve traffic in Tallinn," Ehrenpreis said in response to a question about the new lines.

Maardu is an industrial town to the east of the capital; Keila lies between Tallinn and Paldiski.

These could make use of older rail corridors and even surviving track from earlier freight network. "Rails are extant in many places, used for goods traffic from former times," Ehrenpreis added.

Elron will take delivery of the new Škoda trains in 2024, and they will go into service in the first half of 2025.

These newer trains have more capacity than the current services, including for more passengers, with greater seating space, and more space for carrying bicycles.

A numbered ticketing system would also be introduced which would cut out the need for having to stand at busy times.

The above is all distinct from the planned high-speed north-to-south Rail Baltica line, operated by a different company and to run on a different gauge. Work here is already underway, but delays mean the original planned on-line date of 2026 will not materialize.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

Source: Raadio 2

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