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Tallinn to ask Riga City Council about snow clearing policy

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Snowy streets in Tallinn on November 28, 2023.
Snowy streets in Tallinn on November 28, 2023. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

Tallinn City Governent is planning to ask colleagues at Riga City Council about its new snow-clearing policy amid calls for a similar scheme to be introduced in Estonia's capital. Deputy Mayor of Tallinn Vladimir Svet (Center) is skeptical it can be done with only €4 million.

Earlier this month it was reported the Latvian capital's council will take over snow clearing from residents. The policy is expected to cost €3.7 million this winter.

Tallinn City Governent pushes the obligation to clear snow onto its residents and, as a result, many streets are not cleaned making mobility difficult in winter.

Despite calls for the council to centralize snow clearing, as Riga has now done, Tallinn claims implementing a similar policy in the Estonian capital would cost almost €30 million.

Svet said prices in the two countries vary but the difference should not be tenfold. He believes not all services are included in the figure reported by the media.

A snow-free street in Riga on December 8, 2023. Source: Helen Wright/ ERR

"To answer in more detail, it would be necessary to look at the contracts that the City of Riga has signed. I actually think that at some point this winter we will either go to Riga ourselves or we will host our Riga colleagues here in Tallinn to exchange experiences," he told ERR.

The official said it is worth comparing whether streets or roads are maintained by the municipality and to what extent.

"Last year, the street maintenance contract was adjusted so that the most heavily used pavements and crossings now have a maintenance cycle of four hours. This is more frequent than most of the roads we have," the deputy mayor said.

Svet suspects snow removal is not included in Riga's €3.7 million budget. He said this is one of the most expensive parts of the service.

"When we say that at least €27 million is needed for the maintenance of pavements maintained by private owners [in Tallinn], we also mean the need to remove snow from these pavements, because we know that there is nowhere to store the snow on the smaller pavements, which are often maintained by private owners. And this snow removal aspect is actually one of the most labor-intensive aspects of all this winter maintenance," he said.

Vladimir Svet (Center). Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

In Tallinn, it costs several million euros alone to remove snow from major roads, the politician added.

"I dare to say that to date we have already spent over a million in just over two weeks clearing the snow. It is this aspect of snow clearance which always varies and which actually has a huge impact on the price," said the deputy mayor.

Svet did not want to rate how Tallinn has handled the snow so far.

"We usually count our chicks in the spring, so I think I can give this grade when all the exams are done. Let's just say the beginning wasn't that difficult. Although I can not say that everything is perfect now. Our supervisors are constantly out there, working with contractors to fix the places where there are problems. We see that the maintenance of the pedestrian infrastructure, the maintenance of the pavements, and the maintenance of the public transport stops have especially improved with the new contracts. But there is still room for growth for our service providers," he said.

This article was updated to add information about Tallinn's current snow clearing policy.

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Editor: Helen Wright

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