Latvia and Estonia discuss return of Rīga-Tartu trains

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On Monday, August 15, in Tartu, Latvia's Transport Minister Tālis Linkaits met with the newly appointed Minister of Economy and Infrastructure of Estonia, Riina Sikkut. The ministers discussed the current state of the Rail Baltica project, as well as the potential return of regular passenger train traffic between Rīga and Tartu, Estonia's second-largest city.

"The ministers agreed that it is necessary to activate the work and take further practical steps in order to introduce regular passenger train traffic between the two countries and make the route available in 2024, when Tartu will be a European Capital of Culture. Latvia, for its part, has already submitted options to extend the train route that currently runs to Valga as far as Tartu, or to create a new route," said a release from the Latvian Transport Ministry.

"The introduction of regular passenger train traffic between Latvia and Estonia will not only promote the mobility of the residents of the border regions, but will also contribute to the promotion of economic cooperation between the two countries. At the moment, we are very close to the point at which the train to Tartu will become a reality," said Linkaits.

The mayor of Tartu, Urmas Klaas, expressed his readiness to look for sources of funding in order to organize train connections from Rīga to Tartu.

It is far from the first time the notion of reviving rail links – which were established in Tsarist times – from Rīga to Tartu have been discussed. However, it does seem that this time there is a real possibility trains could actually start running, though no specific target date was mentioned other than the 2024 capital of culture fact. 

At present, travelling from Rīga to Tartu requires a change of trains at the twin border city of Valka-Valga, which can also involve a lengthy wait between connections.

Tartu with Southern Estonia is a European Capital of Culture in 2024. The title year is shared with Bad Ischl in Austria (with the Salzkammergut region) and Bodø in Norway (with Nordland county).

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