Rail Baltic CEO: Tallinn's wishes also factor in airport tram service halt

The number 4 tram stops at the public transport terminal at Tallinn Airport. Dec. 1, 2017.
The number 4 tram stops at the public transport terminal at Tallinn Airport. Dec. 1, 2017. Source: (Siim Lõvi/ERR)

The ongoing closure of the tram connection to Tallinn Airport is partly due to the City of Tallinn itself wanting improvements made to the tramway, says the board chair of the company building the Rail Baltica terminal nearby in Ülemiste.

Deputy Mayor of Tallinn Vladimir Svet (Center) said at the weekend that Rail Baltic Estonia wants tunnels through which the trams passed for two years, while construction work at the terminal is ongoing.

Rail Baltica, also known as Rail Baltic, is a planned high-speed North-South rail link, which will run from Tallinn to the Lithuanian-Polish border, once completed.

Rail Baltic Estonia board chair Anvar Salomets told ERR that construction work relating to the Ülemiste terminal, which will be the northern terminus of the planned high-speed link, is also a factor, as well as the fact that the City of Tallinn wanted the tramways straightened out.

Reconstruction of the tramway should start next year, while the construction of the terminal building will be completed in 2025, he added.

Salomets said: "The tender for the tramway will be held at the end of this year or at the beginning of next year, meaning next year the construction contract relating to this stage will follow."

"Then we will move to the south, Suur-Sõjamäe street and the grid streets to the south, whose construction tender will be issued next year. The construction time frame is from 2025 onward."

The terminal building itself will see its tender announced in 2024, he added.
While as an alternative to the complete closure of tram traffic, there was an option for tram traffic to be opened for a few months at a time, then closed again, but, Salomets said, this would not have been the most reasonable option.

Tallinn Deputy Mayor Vladimir Svet said the tram service to the airport, which opened in 2017 amid great fanfare, will not be up and running again until 2025, a deadline which Salomets agreed was realistic even if the terminal work is done ahead of schedule.

The news came at a bad time for many city residents given the extent to which central Tallinn has already been disrupted due to major roadworks, starting last fall and gaining in momentum in the spring.

According to Salomets, the original work schedule stipulated that the Ülemiste construction works would be carried concurrently with the major road works in Tallinn, but last year's failed major procurement meant that the whole process had to be postponed.

"Initially, the construction cycles were at different types. But we are now, at least partly, running on the same schedule as Tallinn," he said.

It seems also that the state has opted not to interrupt train traffic in favor of tram traffic, he went on

Termninal work and work in the vicinity, including the reconstruction of a tunnel, was larger than forecast, which has had a knock-on effect on the tram line

Since it was the City of Tallinn Tallinn that wanted the current tramway to be rebuilt in Ülemiste, and there is constant communication between it and Rail Baltic, the delays could not have come as a surprise, Salomets said.

Tallinn Deputy Mayor Vladimir Svet said at the weekend that the Rail Baltica work will further disrupt trams in the captial, adding it will be "years" before Tallinners can take a tram to the airport again.


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Editor: Marko Tooming, Andrew Whyte

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