State budget strategy document contained error on rail extension funding

First test trip to Turba (photo taken 2020).
First test trip to Turba (photo taken 2020). Source: Elron/Facebook

An entry in the four-year state budget strategy, known in Estonian as the RES, which set aside €15 million for the westward extension of the national rail system was in fact written in erroneously; the same funds are to be used for the construction of a state-owned vessel which will carry out a number of functions.

The Ministry of Climate, which submitted the RES entry, put the oversight down to human error.

Ministry spokesperson Martin-Erich Torjus said: "The Rohuküla rail line [funding] was already taken out of the recovery plan earlier; [RES] funds were allocated, among other things, for the acquisition of a multi-functional work vessel for the state."

"These used the same code within the budget information system, but the name of the investment remained unchanged. The ministry apologizes for this situation," Torjus went on.

Eesti Raudtee, the state railtrack company, plans to continue, section-by-section, with the Turba-Haapsalu-Rohuküla rail extension, starting from the beginning of 2024.

Of these sections, so far only a 6km section between Riisipere and Turba has been completed; the 13km Turba-Risti section may be built next (see map below).

Location of Rohiküla, Haapsalu, Risti, Turba and Riisipere, in Western Estonia. The plan is for all these settlements to be linked to the capital via a rail extension. Source: Google Maps

The state would have, under the terms of the RES, allocated €15 million for the work.

However, as noted these funds instead are to be used for the state's new multi-purpose ship.

Riho Vjatkin, head of Eesti Raudtee's construction service, said this: "Has not yet been approved by the Riigikogu via the RES, but the number is currently in there.

"There is no plan as such as to what will constitute the next section. The logical place to finish this construction next is at Risti; last year we had one tender almost entering contract, but of course, we will handle the entire section at once," Vjatkin added.

Eesti Raudtee submits its RES request annually; as noted, the figure for next year was €15 million.

Andres Laasma, Director General of Riigilaevastik, the state fleet, said the procurement involved a multi-purpose vessel to be laid down by mid-20206, whose main functions will include administering Estonian waterways and navigation. It will also act as a maritime science vessel, he added.

Additionally, a fifth ferry to connect the Estonian mainland with the islands is to be completed in 2026, to be operated by TS Laevad.

Haapsalu has historically been connected by rail, dating back to the town's heyday as a resort and indeed the former rail station remains a local attraction; the rail link itself ceased to be operational in the 1990s.

The RES is compiled for a four-year period concurrently with the state budget for the ensuing year; the government approved the 2024 state budget earlier this week as per schedule; this next passes to the Riigikogu for voting.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

Source: 'Aktuaalne kaamera,' reporter Toomas Pott.

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