Rail transport in Estonia

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Balti jaam (literally the Baltic Station) is the main passenger railway station of Estonia's capital Tallinn.
Stadler FLIRT in Ülemiste.

The rail transport system in Estonia consists of about 1,200 kilometres (750 mi) of railway lines, of which 900 kilometres (560 mi) are currently in public use. The infrastructure of the railway network is mostly owned by the state and is regulated and surveyed by the Estonian Technical Surveillance Authority (Estonian: Tehnilise Järelevalve Amet).

All public railways in Estonia are 1,520 mm (4 ft 11+2732 in) (Russian gauge), the same as in Russia, Belarus, Latvia, and Lithuania. The 1,520 mm gauge used in Estonia is also compatible with Finland's 1,524 mm (5 ft) gauge. Sometimes it is defined to be 1,524 mm (see Rail gauge in Estonia), for example when buying track maintenance or vehicles from Finland.

Railways in Estonia today are used mostly for freight transport, but also for passenger traffic, with 8.3 million passengers reported in 2019.[1] Passenger transport is most frequent near Tallinn, centred on the main Tallinn Baltic Station.

The Tallinn to Tartu railway is due to be electrified by 2024, with electrification of the remaining network expected to be completed by 2028.[2] 16 new electric trains manufactured by Škoda Transportation are due to come into service starting 2024.[3]



Pääsküla railway station
  • Total length: circa 1,200 km, of which 900 km in public use[4]
  • Gauge: 1,520 mm (4 ft 11+2732 in) Russian gauge
  • Electrified: 133 km (83 mi).

The Estonian railway network is owned by the state-owned company AS Eesti Raudtee and the private company Edelaraudtee Infrastruktuuri AS. These railway network infrastructure operators provide all railway network services for railway operators running freight and passenger services. AS Eesti Raudtee provides approximately 800 kilometres (500 mi) of track, of which 107 kilometres (66 mi) is double track and 133 kilometres (83 mi) is electrified. Edelaraudtee Infrastruktuuri AS maintains 298 kilometres (185 mi) of track which consists of 219 kilometres (136 mi) of main line and 79 kilometres (49 mi) of station line.

Main lines[edit]

Railway lines in public use as of 2015.
All railway lines in Estonia (including demolished)
Frequency of commuter trains, 2016.
Electrified railway lines, 2016.

Owned by AS Eesti Raudtee:

Owned by Edelaraudtee Infrastruktuuri AS:

  • Tallinn–Lelle–(Pärnu)–(Mõisaküla), 141.4 km (87.9 mi) (formerly 190.0 km). There was an international connection from Mõisaküla to Latvia, but the stretch Pärnu–Mõisaküla was abandoned in 2008.[8][9] The Lelle-Pärnu section was permanently closed for passenger operations on 9 December 2018 as it required a €17 million refurbishment. A rail service to Pärnu station will be resumed with the opening of the Rail Baltica line.[10][11]
  • Lelle–Viljandi, 78.7 km (48.9 mi). This line connects Viljandi to the Tallinn–Pärnu line via Lelle.

Major industrial railways[edit]

  • Põlevkivi Raudtee (oil shale railway) maintains over 200 km (120 mi) of track in Ida-Virumaa.[12] Main use of the network is transporting oil shale from underground and open-cast mines to the Narva Power Plants. The company is a subsidiary of Eesti Põlevkivi, which itself is a subsidiary of Eesti Energia, owned by the state.
  • RakvereKunda, 19 km (12 mi). Built in 1896,[13] this line connects the industrial town of Kunda to the Tallinn–Tapa–Narva line. The line is owned by private company Kunda Trans.

Future expansion[edit]

Rail Baltica is an ongoing greenfield railway infrastructure project which will link all Baltic States, including Estonia, Poland and, eventually, Finland. Being a part of the Trans-European Transport Networks (TEN-T), it is one of the priority projects of the European Union.[14] It will introduce standard-gauge high-speed rail with an operating speed of 249 km/h for passenger trains.[14]

As of 2023, the Rail Baltica project completion is scheduled for 2030, with a start of services on some of the sections in 2028.[15]

Conversion to Standard Gauge[edit]

A 2022 European Union proposal for all new rail lines to be Standard Gauge and a rolling plan introduced to convert other gauges to Standard would cost Estonia an estimated €8.7 billion which raises questions over cost/benefit.[16]

Connections to adjacent countries[edit]

Daily passenger service connect Tallinn with Moscow (night train; travel time is 15 hours) through Saint Petersburg, operated by the Russian Railways.

As of summer 2016 three daily trains operated by Latvian Railways connect Riga (Latvia) to Valga (Estonia). The other railway lines to neighbouring countries are not used for direct passenger traffic at the moment. It is possible to travel between Tallinn and Riga with train change at Valga, and the timetables of Tallinn–Valga and Valga–Riga are adjusted for that purpose, but this still takes a long time compared to bus (travel time about 5 hours) or air.

Historic train routes are Tallinn–Moscow via Tartu–Pechory, and Riga–St. Petersburg, which passed through Estonia from Valka, Latvia to Valga, Estonia–VõruPiusa–Pechory, Russia. Both were closed in the 1990s.

There are plans for a new high-speed line Tallinn–Riga (continuing to Poland), Rail Baltica, planned to be in operation around 2027.

Railway links with adjacent countries[edit]


Freight trains are operated by Eesti Raudtee and private companies including Estonian Railway Services (E.R.S. AS),[17] and Spacecom.[18]

Passenger services are offered by three operators:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "IRJ in brief – Financial: Strong sales for TMH – passenger growth for SJ – loss for DSB". International Railway Journal. 24 February 2020. Retrieved 7 September 2020.
  2. ^ "€43 million missing from Estonia's railway electrification budget". ERR News. Archived from the original on 2023-10-03. Retrieved 9 July 2021.
  3. ^ "Estonia buys 10 more electric trains". ERR News. Archived from the original on 2023-10-03. Retrieved 6 September 2022.
  4. ^ "Estonian Technical Surveillance Authority". Archived from the original on 2009-09-07. Retrieved 2008-12-09.
  5. ^ "Eesti Raudteemuuseum" (in Estonian). Archived from the original on 2009-09-07. Retrieved 2008-12-09.
  6. ^ "Go Track to build Riisipere - Turba railway" (in Estonian). Retrieved 2018-12-30.
  7. ^ a b c "About Estonian Railways: Corporate information: History". Eesti Raudtee. Archived from the original on 2006-04-27. Retrieved 2008-12-10.
  8. ^ Tanel Mazur (2007-07-16). "Mõisaküla: viimane sõit raudteed pidi Pärnusse" (in Estonian). Eesti Päevaleht. Retrieved 2007-08-11.
  9. ^ Tõnu Kann (2008-11-08). "Koos Pärnu-Mõisaküla raudteega hääbub elu ja sureb linn" (in Estonian). Pärnu Postimees. Archived from the original on 2009-09-09. Retrieved 2008-11-13.
  10. ^ "Estonia to close railway line and wait for Rail Baltica". Baltic News Network. 6 November 2018.
  11. ^ ERR News. Tallinn-Pärnu railway line to be closed permanently in December. Retrieved 7 June 2019
  12. ^ "Eesti Põlevkivi: Raudteetransport" (in Estonian). Archived from the original on 2009-09-07. Retrieved 2008-12-10.
  13. ^ "138 years of cement". Archived from the original on 2007-11-13. Retrieved 2008-12-10.
  14. ^ a b "Rail Baltica – Project of the Century". Rail Baltica. Retrieved 15 October 2021.
  15. ^ Rail Baltica – Project of the Century" on the Rail Baltica official website, accessed on 26 April 2023.
  16. ^ "Estonian Railways CEO estimates switch to standard gauge would cost €8.7bn". 8 September 2022.
  17. ^ E.R.S. about us Archived 2011-07-20 at the Wayback Machine www.ers.com.ee
  18. ^ The Joint Stock Company Spacecom Archived 2010-03-07 at the Wayback Machine www.spacecom.ee

External links[edit]