The Škoda Vagonka factory in Ostrava was the location for a ceremony, attended by Transport Minister Tālis Linkaits and other transport officials, which saw a large drape pulled off the front of the banana yellow locomotive to modest applause. Hopefully it looked like the model that was ordered.
In a slightly awkward end to the ceremony, champagne was sprayed over the train by the assembled officials, who then posed with champagne glasses – despite the fact that they were all wearing facemasks. After a few seconds' intense thought they whipped off the masks to down the fizz.
According to the Transport Ministry's schedule, the first new trains will start testing this Spring, and should start serving passengers in the Fall.
"The new trains are a much-anticipated event in Latvia, so I am pleased that the production of trains is in the final stages and testing will start very soon – first in the Czech Republic and Slovakia and then in Latvia. And finally, in the Fall, they will be able to be used on passenger services,” said Linkaits.
At present, testing of electrical equipment at the plant has been completed for the first of a total of 32 trains in production. Another 13 assemblies are currently being assembled and painted, while work is underway on the production of the next 18 trains in the mechanical engineering and welding shops.
This year, new trains will be gradually delivered to Latvia, with the total of 32 new electric trains reached by the end of next year. During the visit to the factory, the Minister discussed the delivery of trains and the readiness of the testing and certification process to take place without delay. The first trains are scheduled to arrive in Latvia in the coming months, when the commissioning procedure will be launched immediately.
The last time new electric trains were delivered to Latvia was 32 years ago. Ten wagons were received in 1988 and four more in 1989. Latvia's current trains are a bit creaky, to put it mildly.
"Latvian passengers have long deserved comfortable and modern trains, so this event is not only historic, but revolutionary," enthused the Minister of Transport.
Latvijas Dzelzceļš (Latvian Railways) has already started the project of reconstruction of 48 passenger stations and stops to adapt the platforms to the new rolling stock/ The work is expected to be completed by the end of next year.
At the same time, work is under way to modernize the infrastructure so that passenger trains can run on the rail network at speeds of up to 140-160 kilometers per hour, and a single ticketing system is being introduced.
The total amount of the contract is 240 million euros. The new trains will be used to provide passenger traffic on the lines to Aizkraukle, Tukums, Skulte and Jelgava, as well as within the Rīga urban area.