Estonia expands domestic container train service
Estonian rail freight operator Operail (former EVR Cargo) has launched a container train between Tartu and Sillamäe in order to reduce truck traffic on the country’s highways. The new service is the second domestic rail container line within Estonia. The schedule of the Tartu-Sillamäe-Tartu container train is harmonised with the timetable of the shipping lines departing from Sillamäe port.
The first train ran on the Tartu-Sillamäe-Tartu route in the middle of February. To develop the service, Operail intends to modernise lighting and security systems of the Tartu loading yard in spring. In the future, the rail freight operator will establish a container terminal at Tartu railway station. “Our goal is to offer competition to highway transport and to establish a container terminal in Tartu where we can handle both import and export containers without having to transport them to the port. This will undoubtedly improve the efficiency of rail freight transport and increase competitiveness”, Operail’s Head of Sales Urmas Peterson said.
Operail launched the first domestic container service in summer 2018. It connected Tartu with the country’s largest port of Muuga, 13 kilometres northeast from Tallinn. According to the company, this rail link has already reduced traffic volumes on the Tallinn-Tartu highway, the main road in Estonia, by more than 400 trucks per month.
The train transports mainly timber products. “When transporting freight by rail, the ecological footprint of freight is significantly smaller, and safety also increases on our roads”, Urmas Peterson explained. The container train runs two times per week in each direction. Operail plans to increase its frequency to five times per week in the next five years.
International container trains
Besides two domestic container trains, Operail has five international rail freight services departing from the Muuga port. Two container lines connect Tallinn with the Russian cities of Moscow and Yekaterinburg. The eastern direction is also represented by the Tallinn-Almaty-Tallinn train that runs to Kazakhstan under the brand ‘Baltic Transit II’.
Two other container services move south. Thus, the ZUBR train links Tallinn with Latvia (Riga), Belarus (Mogilev, Vitebsk), Ukraine (Kyiv, Odesa) and Moldova (Chisinau). The latest service was launched in April 2018. It was named the Amber train and connected the port of Muuga with two other Baltic states, Latvia and Lithuania. The train runs to Šeštokai railway station on the Polish-Lithuanian border via Riga and Kaunas.