Beginning in January, Elron will begin offering express rail service from Tallinn to Narva that will shave 25 minutes off the current travel time of about two hours and 40 minutes.
Andrus Ossip, who met with Southern Estonian municipal leaders on Thursday, said that the recently announced increase in ticket prices will be due to the addition of two new departures, including the Tallinn-Narva express.
Beginning next year, ticket prices on Elron's electric trains will increase by 10-20 cents, while ticket prices on its long-distance diesel trains will increase by up to four percent; on the Tallinn-Tartu route, for example, that will mean an increase of just over 40 cents per ticket.
While railway infrastructure fees will be nearly doubling for Elron, the state will be paying the difference. Rather, according to Ossip, ticket prices need to be increased to cover the costs associated with adding two new departures to its schedule — one on the Tartu-Valga route and the other, an express train, on the Tallinn-Narva route.
"The train's travel time will be two hours and 15 minutes, which is still significantly faster than the current regular train and naturally offers significant time savings compared to buses," the CEO explained.
Still no Tartu-Riga train
The additional departure on the Tartu-Valga route will allow passengers to travel from Tartu to Valga after 7 p.m. Ossip acknowledged, however, that the extra departure on this route will not address Southern Estonian residents' concerns regarding how to travel from Tartu to Riga more conveniently.
"Our priority still remains our riders who wish to take the train daily between Tartu and Valga specifically," he said.
There is also no good overview of prospective ridership on a potential Tartu-Riga rail link, as any analyses conducted thus far have been about a Tallinn-Tartu-Riga connection.
"If we consider Rail Baltic, then it is very likely that the majority of residents in the Tallinn area will begin taking the more direct and faster Rail Baltic route," Ossip noted. "So first and foremost we need to consider what the rail traffic perspectives are for a Tartu-Riia route."
The Elron CEO also said at Thursday's meeting that train ridership has increased once again, and while Elron is unlikely to hit the forecasted 7.6 million riders in 2017, this year's growth may still prove to be up to six percent compared to last year's 6.8 million.
More buses, more competition
According to Ossip, it is difficult to predict what effect Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communicaions Kadri Simson's (Center) plan to make county bus lines free to riders may have on train ridership, as those on the Keila-Tallinn route, for example, may end up preferring the free buses.
Likewise it was difficult for the Elron CEO to say what effect GoBus' decision to begin offering 15 departures per day in each directon on the Tallinn-Tartu route may have.
Editor: Aili Vahtla