State finds €2 million in budget for proposed western rail link

The old Haapsalu Railway Station.
The old Haapsalu Railway Station. Source: Priit Luts/ERR

Two million euros has been found in the state budget unveiled Tuesday toward the construction of a potential rail extension from Turba village in Harju County and Rohaküla, near Haapsalu, Lääne County. Should this become reality, it would provide a rail link from Tallinn to the west coast town of Haapsalu, with a current extension between Riisipere in Harju County and Turba. It would require considerably more funds, however.

"The two million found from this very tight budget, the current coalition is showing a willingness and determination to extend the railway which has already reached Turba," Haapsalu Mayor Urmas Sukles (Haapsalu and Ridala coalition) said, according to ERR's online news in Estonian.

Sukles, together with Centre MP Jaanus Karilaid, another champion of the link, had just a few days ago asked for funds for the extension. The Riisipere-Turba stretch is nearing completion and will be open in December, it is reported.

Karilaid heads the Riigikogu's Restoration of Haapsalu Railway Support Group.

Läänemaa local government leaders have expressed a hope that the line will reach Rohaküla and Haapsalu.

The money will help fund the extension and the asociatted Ellamaa viaduct. More money is needed, though this has not been found yet. Spokespersons for economic affairs minister Taavi Aas (Centre) said, however, that the will is there and timing and ultimate costs will become clear during the design process.

Preliminary studies have already been done by Läänemaa municipalities.

However, whereas the Riisipere-Turba stretch is only a few kilometer, an extension to Rohküla would be a lot longer, around 50 km, and thus cost a lot more (the Riisipere-Turba extension cost €8 million).

There are also some obstacles to overcome, it is reported. A former settlement lies on the proposed line's route, though it was thought this wouldn't be problematic to solve.

A wildlife habitat close to the village of Risti, about halfway between Turba and Rohküla, necessitated a slight rerouting of the planned line as well, according to Mikk Lõhmus, elder of Lääne-Nigula, where the territory lies.

However, nothing is finalized, though Lääne County authorities said that the state had taken a step towards the design. Lõhmus added that he was optimistic about its prospects, noting that five years ago the Riisipere-Turba section seemed something of a pipe-dream and yet is now nearing completion.

The planned railway would connect Tallinn to the western coastal town of Haapsalu and the ferry port village of Rohuküla beyond — which in turn connects the mainland to the Western Estonian island of Hiiumaa by ferry. Haapsalu has in the past been served by a rail line, and the old late Tsarist-era station is open to the public. That line closed in 1995.

Editor: Andrew Whyte

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