New trains earmarked for passenger rail company Elron are not likely to be in operation for another two or three years, the company's CEO said Tuesday.
Minister of Economic Affairs and Infrastructure Taavi Aas (Centre) proposed the purchase, in response to a rise in the popularity of train travel in Estonia in recent years.
The number of train passengers has grown threefold in Estonia over the past five years, with train traffic between larger towns doubling, to attempt to meet that need. Inevitably this has led to overcrowding on some routes.
Passenger numbers have reached a level where Elron has had to ban taking bikes on board, on many of its services, at least through summer.
"We have been awaiting the government's positive decision regarding new trains for quite a while and also started preparing the procurement documents," Merike Saks, CEO of Elron told BNS, noting that no time will be wasted in putting the procurement in motion, should the government give the green light.
Once those new trains arrive – which Aas stated should be hybrid locomotives rather than the current diesel engines mostly operated by Elron, though the latter said a combination of the two would be likely – Elron will reroute its existing rolling stock on other routes, to ease overcrowding.
Saks has previously said that if something happened to a train, since there is no spare capacity in the current situation, delays would be likely.
"As to the new trains, the level of comfort of which is intended for longer trips, we would prefer for those to be compatible with the existing ones, as this would also be the most economically affordable option in terms of operating costs," Saks continued.
"When the trains arrive for service on their routes hinges on the tendering procedure and the factories' time of delivery, but the earliest these trains could start servicing passengers is in two to three years [from now]," she added.
Minister of Economic Affairs and Infrastructure Taavi Aas is to make his trains proposal to the cabinet in the coming weeks. The four new units would allow for additional departures to be added on the major routes between Tallinn and Tartu, Narva and Viljandi. The cost of the new trains will be determined in the course of the tender, and possible sources for financing will be discussed by the government, it is reported.
Editor: Andrew Whyte