New Petersburg-Tallinn Train Link Cancelled
Published: May 11, 2007 (Issue # 1270)
Russian Railways (RZD), citing economic factors, cancelled its St. Petersburg-Tallinn rail link just weeks after restarting the service.
Coming on the eve of Victory Day celebrations, however, the move was seen as the latest twist in the dispute between Russia and Estonia over the relocation of a Soviet war memorial in Tallinn. The spat appears to be spreading to affect trade and transportation links, with a pro-Kremlin youth group agitating for a boycott of Estonian goods by St. Petersburg retailers and consumers.
“From May 26, for commercial reasons, including the extremely low passenger numbers and subsequent losses incurred, we are planning to cancel the running of the train,” RZD said Tuesday in a statement.
The operation, co-run with Estonian partners, lost almost 390,000 rubles ($15,000) in April, RZD said.
Daily rail services between St. Petersburg and Tallinn resumed March 31 after a four-year break.
There are no plans to end rail services between Moscow and Tallinn. That route carried more than 10,000 passengers in April.
Estonian investors were skeptical Wednesday about RZD’s commercial arguments for ending the St. Petersburg service.
Tiit Pruuli, a member of the board at GoRail, the Estonian company that operates the service jointly with RZD, told the media the explanations presented by the Russian side appear far-fetched and lacking credibility.
“We reopened the route on March 31 following a four-year break, and the interest towards the revived route has been very substantial and forecasts promising both among the Russian and the Estonian travel agencies,” Pruuli said in a press-release distributed by GoRail on Tuesday. “Numbers of customers have increased during the month of April already, and we do not see any plausible commercial motive behind the cancellation of the route.”
“They cite an economic reason but it is difficult to believe that,” said Alar Pinsel, CEO at GoRail.
Pinsel said most of the funding for the project had come from the Estonian side and that it would take time to turn a profit. “The high season will only start in the summer, so of course it would start doing better,” he said.
Despite the setback, GoRail is still hopeful that it can convince RZD to change its mind. “Right now we are hoping that this train will stay,” Pinsel said.Pages: