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Government to allocate €8 million to Haapsalu railroad

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PHOTO: Dmitri Kotjuh

After a week's discussion, the government approved Estonia's transport infrastructure investments plan for 2018-2020 yesterday. The plan will concentrate on the Tallinn-Pärnu highway and the Tallinn and Kärdla airports. Construction of the Haapsalu railroad is also included in the plan. The government will be investing an additional €135 million into transport connections.

Minister of Economic Affairs and Infrastructure Kadri Simson, who took the plan to the government, answered Postimees' questions in writing.

You want to invest in rebuilding the railroad to Haapsalu. Was the decision aimed at the whole of Estonia, or were you trying to boost the image of head of the Center Party in Lääne County Jaanus Karilaid?

The objects we picked come as a result of negotiations in the coalition, which is how they should be seen, including the Haapsalu railroad. Allow me to recall that the construction of the Riisipere-Turba railroad section as well as the decision not to renovate the Lelle-Pärnu section in light of Rail Baltic reflect the desire of local government heads, which fact surely played a role in the final decision.

There is a bus connection to Haapsalu. Does this mean the state will have to subsidize the Haapsalu rail connection for it to be able to compete? The previous Haapsalu connection made a loss even in private hands.

Public transport subsidies (both road and rail transport) will grow from this year's €70 million to €92 million next year.

Just as is the case in most European countries, passenger rail traffic is not cost-effective in Estonia, and the state will be subsidizing carriage of passengers with €34 million next year.

It is not the sole purpose of public transportation to turn a profit. Rather it is there to make it possible for more people to have a dependable mode of transport while minimizing environmental impact and future need for infrastructure investments.

Why is it necessary to reconstruct the first section of the Haapsalu railroad (Riisipere-Turba) next year, instead of fixing the Aaspere-Haljala death trap on the Tallinn-Narva highway first?

I have talked to the road administration concerning that section of the highway, and I have been told it would be possible to start renovation work there in 2019-2020 at the earliest. That is the realistic time frame as first it is necessary to design the new section, carry out compulsory purchase of property, hold procurements etc.

Where else could the €8 million allocated to the Riisipere-Turba section have been used?

The coalition had several projects on the table; however, decisions were made unanimously and with Estonia's best interests in mind.

Why was the Lelle-Pärnu section of the railroad left out of the plan in the end?

The Lelle-Pärnu section was one of those objects I myself took to the cabinet. Unfortunately it did not merit the coalition's support.

Who were for it, who against?

The coalition's decisions are mutual.

What will become of the Lelle-Pärnu railroad now?

We will commence construction of Rail Baltic in the coming years that could replace the railroad in the future. Alternatives need to be sought until such time.

What else was left out of the plan besides Lelle-Pärnu, and why?

There were numerous objects, too many to list here. The state's wallet has its limits, and I believe the best possible choice was made.

What is the transit roads program, and which road sections will benefit from it?

The transit roads program, for which €15 million will be allocated, is aimed at supporting local governments the roads of which are traveled in transit. A similar program has been utilized before, albeit in much more modest volume. Specific roads have not been chosen yet.

Why did it take so long to discuss the investment plan in a situation where you were supposed to have an agreement a week ago?

The government does its work thoroughly and takes time to listen to experts. The plan was in no rush. I'm happy we reached a positive result.

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