Economic affairs minister proposes train purchases to meet rising demand

An Elron locomotive.
An Elron locomotive. Source: ERR

Minister of Economic Affairs and Infrastructure Taavi Aas (Centre) is proposing the purchase of four new trains for Eesti Liinirongid AS, the state-owned passenger trains operator, reflecting a rise in popularity of train transport within Estonia.

The proposal, which Aas must make to the coalition cabinet, comes on the heels of an announcement by the train service provider, branded Elron, that taking bicycles on board its trains will be restricted throughout the summer, and completely banned on some services.

"The environmentally friendly nature of train traffic, plus the faster connection times, entices increasing numbers of people to travel by train on a daily basis," Aas said Tuesday, BNS reports.

"The purchase of new trains will enable more frequent express services between Tallinn and Tartu, Narva and Viljandi, while at the same time, slower, regular train services would also improve," he continued.

While the bulk of Elron's near-famous orange locomotives run on diesel, buying hybrid trains for the boosted services would save money, Aas said.

"When acquiring new trains, we want Elron to keep in mind that, in addition to a larger number of seating places, there needs to be room for baby strollers, as well as for those with reduced mobility, but also be more storage space for bicycles," the minister said.

Bike ban more symptom than cause

Elron said in a press release Monday that forbidding bikes on board many of its trains would make more room for those with disabilities, those with children, and others. The company said it had been receiving complaints about hindered access within trains, due to bikes taking up space, with even entrances to toilet facilities being blocked.

Aas added that the new trains' cost would be determined over the course of the procurement process, and that the government would discuss possible financing sources.

Improved seating comfort and refreshment services in-train were also considerations, ministry spokespersons told BNS.

The number of train passengers in Estonia has increased by over 30 percent in the last five years, since the newer Elron trains were introduced. With the increase in passenger demand, train traffic between major cities has more than doubled.

Elron also implied in its Monday press release that procuring more locomotives was one longer-term solution to its bikes ban.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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