The Competition Authority applies measures in the railway services market to eliminate discriminatory or otherwise unfair treatment. Another important task of the Competition Authority is to resolve complaints filed by railway operators. If a railway operator finds that a railway infrastructure operator has treated them unfairly upon confirming a railway network announcement, distributing throughput capacity, organising an approval proceeding, declaring throughput capacity as depleted, preparing a traffic schedule, organising traffic control, planning updates, performing maintenance works, or setting a usage fee, the railway operator may file a complaint with the Competition Authority. In Estonia, the railway infrastructure operators who are managing railways designated for public use are AS Eesti Raudtee and Edelaraudtee AS. AS Eesti Raudtee manages 1,219 km of railways and provides the service of granting the use of railway infrastructure to rail transport service undertakings and rolling stock owners together with traffic control. Edelaraudtee AS manages 222.1 km of railways, while providing similar services.
Figure 1. AS Eesti Raudtee (marked blue) and Edelaraudtee AS (marked brown).
The competent authority for passenger transport organised on railways is the Estonian Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications (MEAC). In the case of passenger transport within the borders of a rural municipality or city, it can also be the local government.
The MEAC has concluded a public service framework agreement for the years 2023–2032 with AS Eesti Liinirongid (operating under the brand Elron) that encompasses the entire volume of public passenger transport within Estonia. AS GoRail was in charge of passenger transport on the international passenger railway line Tallinn-Saint Petersburg-Moscow, which has been temporarily suspended from May 2022.
As of 2022 13 undertakings have an operating licence for the transport of goods, but the activities of most of them were limited to non-public railways, ie performing local transport of goods (eg ports and mines). The largest undertaking operating on public railways was AS Operail.
Russia's attack on Ukraine also affects our economy, including the transport sector in particular. The volume of cargo in Estonian ports and railways was affected by the imposed sanctions on the transport of goods by rail and through ports. According to Statistics Estonia, the volume of cargo transport on railways decreased by 24% in 2022.
In 2022 Estonian railway operators transported a total of 18 million tons of cargo. Compared to 2021, when a total of 23 million tons of cargo was transported by all undertakings, the decrease was 24%. In no month did the cargo volume increase compared to last year. As much as 47% less cargo was transported on public railways, 6 million tons instead of 12 million tons. Freight turnover1 on Estonian railways was 1.3 billion tonne-kilometres last year. As late as 2021 the freight turnover was 2.1 billion tonne-kilometres, so the movement of cargo on railways dropped by 40% in just one year.
However, in 2022 people used passenger trains more than the year before. The number of trips made by trains increased by 16%, from 6 million to 7 million per year. Every month (except August) saw an increase in passenger numbers. In terms of proportions, the annual difference in the number of passengers was the largest in the spring months, which can be explained by the impact of the corona wave and restrictions in the spring of 2021.1
Progress has been made with the construction of the Rail Baltica railway. Thus, three viaducts and two wildlife crossings were completed in 2022 as part of this project. In total, projects in 2022 and 2023 have already been covered or are about to be covered by procurements in the amount of nearly 200 million. An overview of last year's Rail Baltica construction and plans for 2023 are available on the Rail Baltica website.2
There are no amendments to railway-related legislation concerning the tasks of the Competition Authority currently under consideration.
1 Statistikaamet https://www.stat.ee/et/uudised/veoste-maht-sadamates-langes-2022-aastal-15-raudteedel-24
2 Rail Baltica https://www.rbestonia.ee/ulevaade-moodunud-aastast-rail-baltica-ehitusel-ja-alanud-aasta-plaanid/