Estonians take to the rails with modern, new passenger trains in Tallinn

To improve the comfort, speed and frequency of train journeys in Tallinn, an EU-funded project replaced 40-year-old electric trains that had reached the end of their usefulness with modern, efficient models. As a result, more and more Estonians are opting to take the train over using a car or bus – benefiting the economy and the environment.

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Tallinn, Estonia has new high-tech, environmentally friendly, electric trains thanks to an EU-funded project. © Technical Regulatory Authority Tallinn, Estonia has new high-tech, environmentally friendly, electric trains thanks to an EU-funded project. © Technical Regulatory Authority

" With the comfort, convenience, speed and frequency of the new rail network – including better access for the disabled, electronic passenger information systems and wireless internet access – people can move from car and bus travel to rail, in turn leading to lower congestion and better air quality in Tallinn. "

Jaak Simon, Technical Regulatory Authority, Tallinn, Estonia

In 2011, national authorities in Estonia decided that the country’s 40-year-old trains had reached the end of the tracks. Not only had they surpassed their expected lifespan, their energy efficiency was low and maintenance costs high.

As a result, Elron, the government-owned company providing passenger rail services on the 131.6 km of electrified rail network around Tallinn, decided it was time for an upgrade. So they acquired 18 high-tech, environmentally friendly, electric trains that comply with European standards.

High-tech, environmentally friendly trains

On 1 July 2013, the first of the new Stadler Flirt EMU trains entered service, with the entire fleet being replaced by the end of August of the same year. In total, the project purchased 60 rail cars, along with diagnostic equipment for operating and maintaining the trains.

The new units consist of passenger carriages with traction motors incorporated within one or a number of carriages. The units can be steered from both ends or can be joined to each other, offering flexibility during peak travel times. The trains use an electro-dynamic braking system where the braking energy can be reused – a vast improvement over the previous systems’ cast iron brake shoes that emitted 76.8 tonnes of dust into the surrounding environment every year.

The new trains also decreased the rail sector’s energy consumption by 30 %. Because the new trains are significantly lighter, the wear-and-tear on the tracks and supporting infrastructure is less, resulting in lower track fees and need for government subsidies.

More passengers, more revenue

With the modern new trains available throughout the day, more and more Estonians are choosing rail transportation over driving or taking the bus. In fact, passenger figures have gone up by 50 %. According to Elron’s figures, in 2014 the fleet made 5.8 million trips – 43 % more than in 2013. By 2015, the fleet was making 6.57 million trips – representing an 11.3 % increase over the year before. This increase in passenger figures also equates to an increase in ticket revenue, which came in at EUR 10.1 million in 2014 – 58% higher than 2013 figures.

Creature comforts too

The new trains also feature an array of passenger amenities. For example, each train includes handicap accessible cars and seating, along with bicycle friendly spaces. Passengers can enjoy electronic travel information systems and 4G wireless internet access. With the train models being the widest in the EU, passengers have more room to stretch out and move around – not to mention taking in the view from the carriages’ large windows.

Total investment and EU funding

Total investment for the project “Purchase of passenger trains for Estonia” is EUR 79 500 000, with the EU’s Cohesion Fund contributing EUR 67 575 000 through the Estonian “Development of Economic Environment” Operational Programme for the 2007-2013 programming period.

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