Construction of Haapsalu rail link causing tensions

The old Haapsalu Railway Station may soon see active use again.
The old Haapsalu Railway Station may soon see active use again. Source: (Anvelt/Wikimedia Commons)

Construction of the Haapsalu rail link is picking up speed. Last week, Prime Minister Jüri Ratas announced that the Haapsalu rail link should run all the way to Rohuküla Harbor. Some locals worry, however, that the construction of the high-speed rail link will affect them negatively.

For example, a few tens of kilometers of the old embankment in Allikmaa village aren't fit for high-speed rail use, as the segment includes too steep a curve. In order to straighten out the route, some land would need to be expropriated from current landowners for the construction of a new embankment. A new embankment, however, threatens to leave wells in the village dry, according to lawyer Peep Rajaveer, himself a local and representative of 72 people to sign an objection to the project in its current form. The county government has promised to accommodate locals in the implementation of this plan, reported ETV news broadcast "Aktuaalne kaamera."

"If constructing a new embankment for the railway route proves necessary and if this leads to the drying up of village wells, then the developer must find a way to ensure water supply to the village's 12 farms," said Rajaveer.

In the neighboring borough of Palivere, a bi-level crossing needs to be built. The borough has an old railway station which currently houses a youth center and safe passage for young and old alike must be ensured there. According to Rajaveer, the speed at which the train is expected to pass through Palivere — 160 kilometers per hour — is another point of contention, as is the fact that twelve properties must be partially or entirely expropriated in Allikmaa for the new embankment.

"My principals are of the position that the 30-second advantage it would provide the Tallinn-Haapsalu route isn't worth the suffering of 12 property owners," he added.

The Ministry of Finance must ensure that county's plans have been drawn up correctly and attempt to resolve disagreements if the parties involved have not been able to do so.

According to the ministry, the county government has been proper and done good work in planning the new rail link's route. They are hardly willing to significantly reduce planned rail speeds, however.

Tiit Oidjärv, head of the ministry's Spatial Planning Department, said that the goal of the entire project remains the establishment of a high-speed connection between the two major population centers of Tallinn and Haapsalu. "Which is why the planning of a relatively high speed limit, in Estonian terms, is a priority," he explained. "This certainly doesn't mean that there shouldn't be more stops. And certain trains will travel faster and certain ones at slower speeds. But it is a priority of the project to achieve top speeds."

It will take another couple of months for the Ministry of Finance to complete its monitoring activities. After their completion, the county governor will have the authority to impose the railway plan.

Editor: Aili Vahtla

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