TALLINN - Regional public transport centers managing local bus services in counties along the Estonian-Latvian border have received 300,000 euros via a EU program to extend county bus lines to Latvia, Louna-Eesti Postimees reported.
Sander Saar, manager of the public transport center for southeastern Estonia, said the bus service from the county town of Voru to Aluksne, a Latvian town situated 15 kilometers from the Estonian border, could emerge as a connection with Riga and from there to Europe for residents of their region. The regional cross-border bus line now needs approvals from the Ministry of Climate and the Ministry of Regional Affairs and Agriculture.
"At the moment, we are waiting for the ministry to analyze what changes to the law might be needed to get the routes up and running, and then make the necessary changes," Saar said.
The bus line to Aluksne would run either via Rouge and Murati, or via Vastseliina and Murati.
Another important aspect is that there are regular transport connections between Aluksne and Riga.
"We can view this extension of the county line as a possible roadway to Europe, enabling our people to travel by public transport, for example, from Voru to Riga airport and then back," Saar said.
The size of the bus, according to Saar, depends on the success of the pilot project. It is possible that initially a 28-seater bus will be used, with the option of switching for a bigger one if demand turns out to be bigger. There would be two departures in both directions per day, one in the morning and the other in the evening.
"The bus connection with Latvia would contribute to tourism, but the timber industry, for example, would certainly also be interested in facilitating mobility for their workforce," Saar said. "Not to mention the different services that are available on different sides of the border -- they will become more accessible in the future."
The plan is to extend the bus route within the framework of existing public passenger service contracts, without seeking a separate carrier.
Aside from the Voru-Aluksne service, the public transport center of Valga County wants to change the situation where the border towns of Valga and Valka, which effectively function as one town, have separate public transport systems.
The Parnu county public transport center wants to establish bus connections with the Latvian small towns to Mazsalaca, Rujiena, Valmiera, Salacgriva, and maybe even Limbazi. The Viljandi county public transport center wants to connect Viljandi with its Latvian twin town of Valmiera.
The Parnu county public transport center is the leader of the project.
The cost of the project is 375,000 euros, of which 300,000 has been requested from the Interreg 2021-2027 Estonia-Latvia program. The rest is own contribution, to be provided by the public transport centers of both countries, and potentially also governments.