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Estonian Railways' losses to deepen in coming years

A train at a level crossing.
A train at a level crossing. Source: ERR

Estonia's railways are increasingly only being used for passenger transport as the freight market has dried up since Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022. Only losses are expected in the near future.

At the Maardu freight station, the railway line is empty. State-owned company Estonian Railways (Eesti Raudtee) transported 10 million of cargo last year, but this was a drop of 43 percent compared to 2022.

"Compared to last year, it is down 40 percent. Shale is [still being] transported to keep the boilers running. And fuels are probably the second biggest commodity group. Those come from Lithuania's Orlen oil refinery," said Arthur Raichmann, Estonian Railways' commercial manager.

The amount of goods in transit started to slow in 2021 and then fell sharply in 2022. Last year, 2.1 million tons transited Estonia compared to 9.5 million in 2021.

"It seems that this trend is not going upwards and it does not even seem to stay at the same level. Today, we are talking more about passenger transport than freight transport," Raichmann told Tuesday's "Aktuaalne kaamera".

The company's losses are growing every year. Last year, the state paid €31 million to make up the shortfall.

Sander Salmu, deputy secretary general for Transport at the Ministry of Climate, said the state expects to allocate between €38-€40 million to the firm in the coming years.

The state will continue to pay as is obligated to cover infrastructure costs, but the railway network is increasingly only used for passenger trains.

"This trend has been in place since 2008. But by 2030 and onwards, once Rail Baltic and the north-south corridor are completed, rail will become much more important as they have the potential to increase the freight capacity of today's railways," Salmu said.

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Editor: Marko Tooming, Helen Wright

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