Operail’s multimodal container train, which made its first trip on 27 August 2018, has hauled 2,828 containers, or 5,656 truckloads of goods, via rail rather than on the highway. The company has thereby improved safety on Estonian highways and preserved the environment.
“At the end of summer last year, we started with six containers on the Tartu-Muuga line; today, we are also hauling freight to the Port of Sillamäe and we transport more than 400 containers a month,” explained Chairman of the Operail Board, Raul Toomsalu. Initially mostly containers of sawn timber were shipped, but since spring, larger volumes of gravel have been moved, and since August, Estonian grain has also been shipped via rail. “We have gradually started to transport new goods groups, showing that there is a large demand for our multimodal services.”
In 2020, the company plans to introduce specially designed hopper containers to transport grain that can be loaded from above, which will allow loading at the side of fields or at a farmer’s own silo. “Thus far, all freight has been shipped via the Tartu terminal, and we have connected the Tartu and south-east Estonian region with the North Estonian ports. In the future, we are planning to open a new loading stations, and to diversify our routes,” explained Operail’s development project manager Urmas Peterson. “In the light of growing freight volumes, we will also certainly invest more in our terminals in order to increase safety on highways and improve loading conditions on the railway.”
Rail transport is a very efficient solution for producers and manufacturers in south Estonia. “In the time it takes a truck to deliver one container from south Estonia to the ports of Muuga or Sillamäe, a vehicle can deliver eight times the goods to our terminal in Tartu.”
Major advantages over road transport that Peterson highlights include safety and the environmental impact. “Rail transport uses only a quarter of the fuel that a truck does for the same load (one tonne), thus our carbon footprint is significantly smaller.” Peterson added that in the first year of operation for Operail’s freight train, more than 900 tonnes of CO2 have been prevented from being emitted into the atmosphere. “In addition, we have increased road safety on our country’s already busy roads.”