Border checkpoints in Narva and neighboring Ivangorod do not permit an increase in the number of departures, board member of Lux Express Rait Remmel says, which will hamper the effect of the newly introduced free e-visas to St. Petersburg.
Remmel, who is in charge of the Russia-related operations of Lux Express, said that even though free e-visas are making travel to the Leningrad region very easy, the Narva-Ivangorod border crossing acts as a bottleneck.
"Although buses have a so-called green corridor when crossing the border, it is very busy already," Remmel said. "For that reason no departures can be added at the times suited for regular departures. When we ask for an additional departures, we are told by the authorities in Estonia and Russia that all time slots on the border are taken," he said.
Although the officials working on the border are doing a good job, insufficient infrastructure and the narrow bridge across the border river are serving as obstacles, Remmel said. Such obstacles do not exist at the checkpoints of Koidula and Luhamaa in southeastern Estonia, but that is of no help for the Tallinn to St. Petersburg bus service.
"The capacity of the Finnish-Russian border is good as well, yet the Narva-Ivangorod checkpoint requires investments on both sides of the river," the executive added.
Currently Lux Express carry 40,000 passengers to Russia every year. According to Remmel, that number is expected to grow by about one-tenth thanks to e-visas next year.
"The Russian side hopes that as a result of e-visas the number of tourists will increase by 40-50 percent. However, in the Kaliningrad region, for instance, e-visas were introduced from July and a growth of less than ten percent is being forecast there by the year-end," Remmel said.
He added that, in particular, increases are expected to be registered in travel by families with children and young people to St. Petersburg.
The manager said that the load factor of Lux Express buses on the St. Petersburg route is high already. In the first nine months of the year, the number of passengers on the Tallinn-St. Petersburg route grew 8 percent and on the Tartu-St. Petersburg route 15 percent year on year.
Editor: Helen Wright