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New Russian sanctions against Estonian rail transit?

Staff writer |
The drop in rail transit traffic between Estonia and Russia that has been a reality since the end of March is drastic and unexpected.

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This is requiring the Estonian transit sector to slim down its business, Estonian Railways CEO Sulev Loo says.

"The number of train pairs has halved. The reason is economic - oil prices are down, Russia is producing less heavy fuel oil and has found better opportunities for selling it via Russian ports. It's as simple as this," Loo told BNS.

The CEO said there was no visible political pressuring behind the fall in the number of train pairs as was speculated by the leader of the Estonian rail workers union, Oleg Tsubarov.

"Things went bad already at the end of last year when the amounts in transit fell everywhere. March was a very bad month for us," Loo said.

He added that companies of the Estonian transit sector are on the lookout for possibilities now to narrow down their business activities.

"If the situation stays as it is, some changes are definitely in store. At the same time, Estonian Railways has nothing much to slim down since 75% of our activities is passenger carriage, where you can't make any concessions."

"According to my information, by last week's decision of Moscow, rail carriage between Estonia and Russia was reduced to six train pairs per day, but all signs show the volume will fall further," head of the Estonian Railwaymen's Trade Union Oleg Tsubarov told BNS on Monday.

Tsubarov was unable to say what the reason for the cutback was. "One can speculate that Russia has launched counter-sanctions of its own, but this is just a supposition because Estonian Railways has not informed me about the reasons," he said.

The union leader said he had every day last week talked with members of the union who were complaining that Russia-bound goods carriage had shrunk. "The workers complain there's little work and are afraid for their jobs," he said. "Such a fall in volumes is bound to hit other sectors as well, in the first place ports and maritime activity. It's to be feared the redundancy wave will not be limited to the railway sector."


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