Company History

History of Estonian Railways Ltd


First railway in Estonia was opened on October 24th, 1870 on Paldiski - Tallinn - Narva - Gatshina route. This date also marks the birth date of Estonian Railways. On the same year a connection was made with St Petersburg - Warsaw railway. In 1870 the Baltic Railway Company extended the line from Gatchina to Tosno, creating a connection with current October Railway. Thanks to the Baltic railway, the practically ice-free port of Tallinn started developing rapidly, where a large, for current era, grain elevator was built .

In 1877 the Tapa - Tartu railway line was opened and in 1887 it was extended to Valga where the line was connected to the railway Pskov - Riga, which was then being built. Regular traffic on the latter railway was opened two years later.

In 1896 the first narrow-gauge (750 mm) railway Valga - Pärnu was completed, in 1897 a railway line from Mõisaküla to Viljandi was opened, and from there further on to Paide and the port of Tallinn. Regular traffic between the above-mentioned cities was opened in 1901.

In 1924 regular electric train traffic was launched between Tallinn-Pääsküla.

In 1931 the wide-gauge (750 mm) railway Tartu - Pskov was completed, and Estonian ports were directly connected to the central regions of Russia and the Ukraine.

Independent Estonian Railways (EVR) was founded with the directive of Estonian minister of roads on November 15th, 1918 on the basis of tracks of Looderaudtee (North-Western Railway), Esimese Juurdeveoteede Selts (First Association of Approach Tracks), and field tracks of the sea fortress and armed forces.

In 1940, when EVR was included in the USSR railway network, the length of Estonian tracks designated for public use was 1,447 km, of which 772 m were wide-gauge tracks and 675 m were narrow-gauge tracks.

The transition from steam engines to gasoline locomotives started in 1957 and continued for two years. Within the period of 1955–1958 contact network and Järve and Keila transport substations were reconstructed.

In 1973 electric train traffic between Tallinn and Kehra was launched; new transport substation started its work in Raasiku.

One of the principal bases of Eesti Raudtee transit capacity is the port of Muuga; the first stage of which was commissioned in 1986. The reason why the port was built was the need to import grain to the Soviet Union. Concurrently with the construction of the port the railway was also reconstructed; the new port was connected to the railway and the construction of the second pair of tracks between Tallinn and Tapa was started.

In 1991, after Estonia had regaining independence, the formerly militarized organisation acquired the functionalities of economic transit channel.

The state-owned company Estonian Railways was founded on January 1st, 1992, its task was the management of Estonian railways. During the same year, Estonian Railways was reinstated as a member of the International Union of Railways (UIC, with headquarters in Paris), and Estonian Railways became a member of the Organisation for the Collaboration of Railways (OSShD, with headquarters in Warsaw).

On August 1997 the state-owned company was transformed into the public limited company Estonian Railways. Estonian Railways . Estonian Railways Ltd was further transformed pursuant to the privatization scheme approved by the Government.

In 1998 an international competition jointly with the investor selected by way of competition was held for the foundation of an international public limited company engaged in the transport of passengers.

In 1999 the Government introduced a significant change in the privatization plans of Estonian Railways, namely, it was decided to surrender the signing of concession and instead sell 66% of majority shares. Resulting from this change, a task was imposed on the Estonian Privatization Agency to sell the shares of Estonian Railways Ltd by way of international tender with preliminary negotiations.

Pursuant to the decision of the Government, on April, 2000 the Estonian Privatisation Agency announced the privatization of 66% of the shares of Estonian Railways Ltd by way of two-round international competition. On March 2nd, 2001 the General Director of the Estonian Privatisation Agency invited BRS to sign the agreement on the privatization of 66% of Estonian Railways Ltd shares and the privatization and shareholder agreement; the final coming into force of the privatization and shareholder agreement was made dependent on the payment of purchasing price. EPA offered BRS an opportunity to pay the price offered for shares at the latest of August 31st, 2001, which BRS  also did on the mentioned date.

On August 31st, 2001 BRS acquired qualifying holding in Estonian Railways Ltd.

On January 9, 2007 Estonian Republic purchased 66% of the shares back fm BRS for 2,35 billion kroons, becoming the sole holder of the company.

In the summer of 2008, Estonian Railways Ltd moved to new headquarters in Tallinn, at Toompuiestee 35.

On January 14, 2009 the division of Estonian Railways Ltd by acquisition was entered in the commercial register, which marked the launch of two subsidiaries: AS EVR Infra responsible for managing and maintaining infrastructure and AS EVR Cargo handling cargo transport.

On September 3rd, 2012 freight operator AS EVR Cargo separated from Estonian Railways Ltd as an autonomous enterprise.