Over the last week first meters of new track have been laid on Riisipere-Turba section. Works continue until October, when this 6,5km (4mi) line is expected to open. Then, after 24 years passenger trains will be able to run west from Riisipere again. This section is part of the former Haapsalu railway, which was closed down for passenger traffic in 1995 and rails were pulled in 2004, after that it was used as a bike path. Last year money was granted for the first phase of construction works, building of 6,5km of electrified tracks. There are plans to restore rest of the line to Haapsalu and Rohuküla port, but funding has not yet being decided.
At the moment biggest problems facing railways in Estonia are slow decision making and lack of funding. There are lots of projects waiting for money (e.g. double-tracking of Pääsküla-Keila line, restoring Haapsalu railway, increasing capacity in Tallinn junction, modernizing signalling systems, raising top speeds, new trains for Elron etc.). Since the introduction of new Stadler trains five years ago, rail ridership has skyrocketed. Trains are cramped on weekends, delays are not uncommon due to low capacity of lines and lack of train units. There is urgent need for improvments. Instead, government is pumping hundreds of millions of euros to Rail Baltic project, which is nice of course, but it’s not going to help existing broad gauge railways.
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