Minister in hot water over insulting Lithuanians

Estonian Minister of Economic Affairs Juhan Parts is in the middle of a diplomatic row, after Wall Street Journal published a blog posting where Parts was quoted as saying that certain Lithuanian government members were “fools”.

Parts has used the Estonian word “jobud” to describe the Lithuanian government for recent demands made on Rail Baltic, the joint infrastructure project to connect the Baltics to the European rail system.

According to Parts, such demands are slowing down the progress and are putting the whole venture at risk.

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Estonia’s passenger rail traffic may come to standstill

Edelaraudtee, Estonian private rail passenger carrier, threatens to stop all passenger rail traffic from next year, writes ERR.

The company’s lawyers said that if the court upholds the decision of the public procurement dispute committee that declared null and void the directly awarded contract between the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Elektriraudtee with which the state gave all the railway passenger transport management starting from 2014 to Elektriraudtee without holding a competition, all passenger rail traffic would come to a standstill.

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Lithuania being investigated for cutting Latvian link

The European Commission has launched formal antitrust proceedings against the Lithuanian state-owned railway company Lietuvos gelezinkeliai (LG) for removing a rail link between Latvia and Lithuania, reported news2biz LITHUANIA.

In late 2008, Lietuvos gelezinkeliai dismantled the Lithuanian leg of the rail tracks connecting Renge station in Latvia to Mazeikiai in Lithuania, following an order from the Lithuanian government. It claimed that the track was in bad condition and could cause an accident. It has not reopened the route since.

Both Orlen ( a Polish-owned oil refinery) and Latvian state-owned rail company Latvijas Dzelzcels complain that Lithuania’s move is aimed at protecting its own transport companies at the expense of their competitors.

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Estonians will enjoy Swiss trains worth 96 MEUR

The Estonian passenger operaator Elektriraudtee AS (Electric Railway) and the Swiss train manufacturer Stadler Bussnang AG presented the first two units of the major order of diesel and electric trains placed with Stadler by Estonia.

Elektriraudtee said that the trains, designed for the climatic conditions of Estonia, will enter operation in June 2013. Both units have a top speed of 160 kilometers per hour.

The public tender of Elektriraudtee to buy 18 electric and 20 diesel trains was announced in 2009 and contracts with the winning bidder were signed in August 2010.

The electric trains cost approximately 80 million euros, 85% of which is provided by the EU Cohension Fund. The diesel trains cost 96 million euros and will go to Elektriraudtee under a capital lease arrangement.

Under the government’s decision the state-owned Elektriraudtee, currently the operator of electric shuttle trains to and from Tallinn, will provide passenger service all over Estonia starting from 2014.

Source: Estonian Review

Go Rail launches Tallinn-St Petersburg train service

International passenger transport company Go Rail launches the Tallinn-St Petersburg train route on May 27.

Go Rail’s Tallinn-St Petersburg train will have one trip a day in each direction, departing at 7.03 a.m. from Tallinn and 7.32 p.m. from St Petersburg. The travelling time is 7 hours.

AS Go Rail operates also Tallinn-Moscow trains.

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Cargo carriage by rails grows 17 pct in 2010

Last year a total of 29.63 million tons of freight was carried on tracks of Estonia’s state-owned railway company Eesti Raudtee which marks a year-on-year increase of 16.9%.
Some 2.83 million tons of the total fell into December, up by 15.7% in annual comparison, Eesti Raudtee said.
The overall rail freight volume showed a year-on-year growth of 12%, totalling 6.26 billion net ton kilometers.
Oil and oil products accounted for nearly 69% or 20.36 million tons of the freight turnover, increasing by 15.9% compared to the previous year. Domestic oil shale shipments doubled in annual comparison, reaching 3.69 million tons. Rail haulage of fertilizers also showed robust growth, amounting to 2.24 million tons.
A decline of 34%, to 1.33 million tons, occurred in the carriage of coal. Decreases were also recorded in bulk goods, which contracted by 33% in annual comparison to 0.57 million tons, and in chemical goods, which dropped more than 13% to 0.4 million tons.
Transit shipments accounted for 80.5% of the rail freight volume in 2010, growing by 13.7% from the previous year.
Domestic shipments amounted to 4.25 million tons, up by more than 50% against 2009. Export shipments increased by 8.7% to 0.61 million tons. In import shipments the freight volume was 0.92 million tons, down by 7% year-on-year.
Looking at cross-border haulage, 23.58 million tons of goods or 9.6% more than a year earlier was transported into Estonia by rail last year. Outward-bound rail freight totalled 1.81 million tons, representing a year-on-year increase of 73%.
Container carriage by rail totalled 22 394 TEU, nearly 40% more than in 2009. Almost half the containers went to Russia with shipments to that country growing by 16%.

Source: Estonian Review

Tallinn – Warsaw trains could start running in 2012

Estonia’s minister of economic affairs said after meeting with colleagues from Latvia and Lithuania and European Commission officials in Brussels on Dec.2, 2010 that it is time for the countries to proceed from words to deeds when it comes to passenger train traffic between Tallinn and Warsaw, and the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications believes that trains could start running in 2012.
Estonia considers it important and realistic to restore passenger train traffic on the existing Rail Baltica route in the near future using the automatic track gauge change technique on the border between Lithuania and Poland. Trains could realistically travel at 120 kilometers per hour on the existing infrastructure, the minister said.
“Estonia has with the support of the European Union invested hundreds of millions of kroons in Rail Baltica and is ready to move ahead with this project. This calls for a concrete contribution from other parties as well,” the minister said.
According to the ministry’s information, Latvia and Lithuania backed the Estonian initiative and confirmed their readiness to make a contribution to restoring train traffic.
The Estonian minister of economic affairs and communications, Juhan Parts, said that thousands of tourists arrive in Estonia daily from Finland and Russia looking for opportunities to continue their journey. “We need to think more broadly in terms of geography and look forward, think about our children,” he said.
The ministers agreed in the meeting that a detailed action plan for opening passenger train traffic on the Rail Baltica route between Tallinn, Riga, Kaunas, Bialystok and Warsaw will be mapped out by rail operators in co-operation with government representatives and the work will be co-ordinated by the European Commission. The first meeting was scheduled for January.
In the process of reforming the EU’s transport networks policy it is necessary to make Rail Baltica a part of the bloc’s core transport network, the Ministry of Economy and Communications said. This would ensure possible investments in the new budget period 2014-2020. Estonia will together with EU support invest close to 1.3 billion kroons (EUR 83.1 mln) in Rail Baltica in 2008-2011.

Source: Estonian Review