Lux Express questions the feasibility of Tartu-Riga train connection

Estonian international bus operator Lux Express doubts whether the launch of a train service between Tartu and Riga will pay off, as it would require large subsidies to serve the relatively small number of passengers, on Wednesday, the 28th of February, reports Estonian media ERR.
Lux Express operates three daily trips from Tartu to Riga, two of which start at the Narva border crossing. According to Ingmar Roos, Lux Express’ Estonian business manager, the company’s experience shows that demand for a train connection between Tartu and Riga is questionable.

“Last year, we had an average of 12-15 passengers per trip between Tartu and Riga,”

said Roos, adding that traffic was mainly generated on the St Petersburg-Tartu-Riga route. He expressed scepticism about the viability of the train link, calling it a somewhat utopian idea.
Indrek Laineveer, head of the Ministry of Climate Change’s rail department, said that the passenger carrier Elron estimated that the initial demand could be slightly more than 40 passengers per trip.
This estimate is based on passengers on the Valga-Riga route, excluding possible passengers from intermediate stations, as this would need to be confirmed by the Latvian side, Laineveer said. He suggested that the line could attract more passengers.

The train could reach Riga in the evening and return to Tartu the next morning.

When the Tallinn-Tartu line gets the new electric trains in 2025, the existing diesel trains could be used on the Tartu-Riga line to provide two departures a day, with a maximum of two carriages, Laineveer said.
The Climate Ministry estimates that the initial preparations for the new line would cost around 300 000 euro, with a monthly subsidy of 100 000 euro once the line opens. Subsidies of two million euros a year would be needed to maintain two daily services.
Ross said that even two services a day would not provide all-day coverage, especially as the train would stop in the centre of Riga and the most important thing for passengers is to get to the airport.
Lux Express business manager does not understand the need for a train connection, pointing out that with the planned two million subsidies, the company could provide eight connections in both directions and to Riga airport without charging for tickets.
However, Laineveer stressed that the aim is not to compete with buses but to encourage people to switch from cars to public transport.
The Tartu-Riga line is expected to be delayed in August and may be postponed until October because written agreements have not yet been signed and there is uncertainty about cooperation with Latvia, Laineveer said.
Also read: Passenger trains may start coursing between Riga and Tartu no sooner than autumn
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