Rīga-Tartu train unlikely to come before autumn

It is unlikely that passenger train services between Rīga and Tartu in Estonia will be provided earlier than autumn this year, report the Estonian regional newspaper “Tartu Postimees” and the LETA newswire on February 7.

According to Estonian state-owned passenger train operator “Eesti Liinirongid”, which works under the brand “Elron”, the provision of train services between Tartu and Rīga is not possible anytime soon, although the Estonian Ministry of Climate has allocated EUR 300 000 for this purpose.

Elron board Member Märt Ehrenpreis said normal train running schedules are prepared for a long time ahead. In order to be able to start traffic between Tartu and Rīga, the “Stadler Flirt” trains used by Elron must be certified for operation in Latvia. This is done through the European Railway Agency. Latvia must also conduct train test runs.

The second question concerns the mode of operation of such a route, for example, whether an Estonian driver can drive a train without the presence of a Latvian driver. To establish the “Elron” route, it is necessary to cooperate with the Latvian passenger train operating company “Pasazieru Vilciens”, which works under the brand “Vivi”, reports Tartu Postimees.

The third issue is infrastructure such as compliant passenger boarding and disembarkation facilities, platform heights, and access for people with special needs. The fourth issue is to provide technical support in the territory of Latvia for emergency or repair cases.

One of the most important issues, however, is what daily running times can be offered by the Latvian Railways infrastructure manager, reports the newspaper.

Elron's current goal is to start passenger train services between Tartu and Riga in September or October. Much depends on how quickly preparations will be carried out, how many unexpected questions will arise and how soon the Latvian government and supervisory authorities will do their work, Ehrenpreis noted.

The possibility of restarting a direct train link between the Latvian capital and Estonia's second city has been tossed around for years, but in recent months seemed to gain some added urgency given Tartu's role this year as a European capital of culture and a desire to attract large numbers of Latvians to the festivities.

None of the issues mentioned above are new, but the fact that all of them still remain to be addressed suggests there is no great feeling of urgency from at least one side of the border. 

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