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Simson rejects private business’ offer to help with railway construction

For sale: The railway station in Turba.
For sale: The railway station in Turba. Source: (Postimees/Scanpix)

The governor of Lääne County, Neeme Suur, had suggested that the Turba-Haapsalu railway section could be rebuilt with the help of private business. Minister of Economic Affairs Kadri Simson (Center) has rejected the idea.

In a letter sent to the county government last week, Simson wrote that she could imagine that state railway infrastructure company Eesti Raudtee might rebuild the section as an extension of its network.

“There currently isn’t the money to build the Turba-Haapsalu-Rohuküla section of the Haapsalu railway,” Simson wrote. “Hopefully there’s the possibility for a decisision to allocate the necessary funds in 2019.”

Simson pointed out that the government had already decided to allocate €8 million for the first stage of the reconstruction of the section between Riisipere and Turba. “The planned works on that railway sections are set up in such a way that it is possible later on to continue construction of the Haapsalu railway without great modifications,” Simson added.

Local paper Lääne Elu wrote that businessmen Koit Uus and Veiko Tišler had started a company called Lääne Raudtee (“west railway”) a few years back with the aim to rebuild just this railway section. Uus made an offer to Eesti Raudtee in early June this year that the company could pick up a loan in addition to the state’s allocated finances, and restore the tracks all the way to Haapsalu.

Uus told ERR’s Aktuaalne kaamera in June that it would be more sensible to simply borrow money on top of the €8 million allocated by the state and finish the railway all the way to Haapsalu. Otherwise, once the Turba section was built, efforts had to start from scratch trying to convince the state to finish the job.

Lääne Raudtee owns the railroad embankment leading into Haapsalu. According to its owners, the company is ready to work with state-owned Eesti Raudtee. “We’ve offered that we could do this together, to raise the issue with different companies, no matter whether under the name of Eesti Raudtee or together with us,” Uus said.

Governor Neeme Suur made a similar suggestion when he sent letters to the minister of economic affairs, and also to Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Center) in June. Suur wrote that the tracks could be rebuilt all the way to Haapsalu, making use of offers from the private sector.

According to statements recently made by Simson, the issue of developing regional railway connections is of secondary concern, as most money and effort is currently going into the planning and construction of Rail Baltic. The government decided last week that the railway to Pärnu will be interrupted between Lelle and Pärnu—for seven years beginning in 2019.

The money, an estimated €17 million, would instead be spent on Rail Baltic, Simson said.

Editor: Dario Cavegn

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