Europe in My Region

Railways are known as an ‘old-fashioned business’, a 150-year-old means of transport that is nowadays used less and less, and where it is still used requires large sums to keep it working, as with all old technologies.

This is a repost of Rail Baltica projekt on mõttetu raha raiskamine and Miks mitte Eestisse hyperloop?, originally published by Inno Tähismaa (@innott, Facebook) and submitted to the Europe in My Region 2016 blogging competition. Image: An extract from the Daily Mail website.

For example, in Estonia railway transport is heavily subsidised (to the tune of nearly 15 million euros per year), while the bus companies have to be self-supporting. In other words: taxpayers’ money is used to maintain (i.e. keep alive) an outdated technology. Nowadays, both goods and people travel mostly by air and by road, i.e. by cars, buses and planes. This is a fact that doesn’t need to be proved.

The topic of Rail Baltica arose after Iceland’s volcanic eruption, when Estonians working in Brussels had to commute between Estonia and Brussels by car. Does this mean that, because once in a hundred years a volcano erupts in this way, that 3.5 billion euros, at least 1 billion euros per Baltic state (i.e. one billion euros for Estonia) are needed to boost a 150-year-old technology?

Given that Estonian Air is currently making a loss of about 6 million or even 10 million euros per year, which is somehow considered enormous, one billion euros could cover Estonian Air’s losses for 100 years. It’s up to everyone to decide whether this is a little or a lot. Very soon, the airline will probably start turning a profit, like Air Baltic does. As for the new railway, it is known in advance that, after it launches, huge amounts will needed to keep it working. The trains will never achieve a speed of 700 km/h like planes, nor the flexibility that buses enjoy.

Instead, we should invest, if at all, in more effective means of air transport and in roads and electric buses that, along with electric cars, are a technology for the future.

Why not a hyperloop in Estonia?

Estonia is going to great lengths to build a railway fit for the previous generation, while elsewhere in Europe, between Bratislava, Vienna and Budapest, a future means of transport named hyperloop is being planned. The vehicle can reach a speed of 1200 km/h.

Perhaps this would be an appropriate solution between Estonia and Europe. It could really allow for a trip from Tallinn or Tartu to Berlin in some hours. It is also more suitable for Estonian conditions (snow, ice, animals and other dangers) as the vehicle is not moving on land, but in a tube placed on supporting posts.

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