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Operail's old locomotives go to scrapyard

Operail freight trains.
Operail freight trains. Source: Matthias Rikka/Operail

Old locomotives belonging to the state railway company Operail are dismantled for scrap. With Russian transit gone, the company is making huge losses.

The so-called American locomotives, produced in the 1980s and purchased in 2002, haven't operated in Estonia for a while, but were still used for spare parts.

"We took the remaining spare parts that could still be used on the locomotives, as spare parts for these older models are hard to come by, and organized a sale for the rest of it that ended up unloading pretty much everything," said Merle Kurvits, a member of Operail's board of directors.

Cronimet, which submitted the winning bid, won 32 diesel engines.

"We cut and sort them, separate the different metals and prepare them for sale. The first loads have been delivered and are on their way to the smelters," Eva Pedjak, member of the Cronimet board, said.

All the black metal goes to Turkey, the non-ferrous metal to various buyers in Europe or Asia.

"I wouldn't disclose the price of the deal at this time, but the metal is likely to be around 4,750 metric tons. Quite a lot will be sent to recycling," Pedjak said.

While the deal with the old locomotives is clear, the fate of Operail itself is not so clear.

"Operail offers only domestic freight transportation now. With a market share of about 50 percent, we remain one of the largest companies in the Estonian market. At the end of last year, we submitted to the government a strategic action plan explaining how Operail could move forward from its present situation. A decision is expected towards the end of this month," Kurvits said.

"Essentially, we are talking about three options: to continue business as usual, close down, or find new sources of revenue," Sander Salmu, the undersecretary for mobility at the Ministry of Climate, said.

Operail is currently active in rail transport in Estonia, but according to Merle Kurvits, the Estonian market is too small and cross-border activities should be sought.

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Editor: Merili Nael, Kristina Kersa

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