At 9:28 this morning, the first Amber Train leaves Muuga station, creating a rail corridor between Northern and Western Europe through the Baltic States. The Amber Train improves safety on motorways and protects the environment, moving goods from roads to rails.
“Today we are taking a test ride ‒ we’ll see how the loading of goods, border operations and the exchanging of documents and data function,” explained Raul Toomsalu, Chairman of the Management Board at AS Operail. “This time, we are moving from roads to rails some timber material, peat and construction foam, which we are transporting for our clients to Lithuania.”
According to the plan, the test train will reach the Kaunas terminal through Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania by tomorrow morning. There, the semi-trailers will be loaded onto flat wagons with European rail gauge, and the journey continues towards Western Europe. The Amber Train wagons, however will be loaded with new goods, which the train takes back to Muuga port, where the trailers are loaded onto a ship that takes them to Finland.
According to Riina Sikkut, Minister of Economic Affairs and Infrastructure, the Amber Train project is particularly relevant for Estonia at a time where trade flows and transport corridors in the world are being reshaped. “The Amber Train creates a connection between Northern and Western Europe. It provides an additional opportunity to develop freight transport that does not depend on Russia,” said Sikkut.
Scheduled rides on the Muuga-Kaunas-Muuga route will be offered twice a week. When exactly the scheduled rides begin, depends on the results of today’s test ride. “This will happen as soon as possible, as customers are already expressing their interest,” Toomsalu said.
One of the first clients of the Amber Train that will be transporting its goods on today’s test ride, is the logistics company DB Schenker. According to Janek Saareoks, CEO of Schenker Baltics, two bulky shipments were loaded by Schenker onto the first train departing from Muuga, one headed towards France and the other towards the Netherlands. “Our ambition is to create a regular and busy transport corridor to Central Europe and back to Estonia. A train is a considerably more environmentally friendly means of transport, and furthermore, the new solution will help to alleviate the problems created by the chronic lack of truck drivers in the sector,” said Saareoks.
Potential clients of the Amber Train include companies that wish to export their goods from Nordic countries or Estonia to Western Europe and vice versa. Until now, goods transported by sea from Finland to Estonia, as well as goods transported from Estonia, have moved through the Baltic States mostly on trucks. The Amber Train aims to bring these goods onto the railway.
“Rail transport burns 4 times less fuel, emits 6 times less CO2 and is 28 times safer than road transport. For example, the Amber Train improves traffic safety on the Tallinn-Pärnu highway. It helps to remove over 7,500 trucks from the roads every year,” said Toomsalu. On the road, each goods trailer or container is transported by a single truck, whereas one train can transport dozens of trailers.
The Amber Train is a cooperation project between the Baltic countries, led by AS Operail. The cooperation partners include Estonian Railways, Latvian and Lithuanian rail freight transport companies LDZ Cargo and LTG Cargo, loading terminals HHLA TK Estonia in Muuga and Kaunas Intermodal Terminal in Lihtuania.
“We are convinced that the Amber Train project is necessary and we support its development at our end, because there are plenty of goods that could be transported by rail. This, in turn, will benefit the environment and increase road traffic safety in Estonia,” added Kaido Zimmermann, Chairman of the Management Board at Estonian Railways.
The Amber Train is also the preliminary project of Rail Baltica: clients will have the opportunity to get used to rail transport and different parties can establish a basis for cooperation as well as identify potential bottlenecks and find ways to minimise them. Once Rail Baltica is completed, all preliminary work will have been done and transport will simply shift to European rail gauge, eliminating the need to reload goods in Kaunas.
“For us, it is important to ensure that switching the modes of transport from ships to railway goes smoothly, so that we could continue providing services to the Finnish industry. Thanks to the Amber Train we can develop our services already today, so we will be ready for the Rail Baltica freight terminal and the European standard rail gauge,” said Riia Sillave, Chairman of the Management Board at Estonia’s largest freight terminal, HHLA TK Estonia.