The regular rail link between Tallinn and St Petersburg has been an on-off affair. Anything but regular in fact. While the overnight Tallinn to Moscow train has been a mainstay of the timetable for many years, the daytime link between the Estonian capital and St Petersburg has made capricious appearances in the timetables, only then to disappear again. Too often, it has been a pawn in the less than easy relations between Russia and Estonia, with one or the other party axing the cross-border train as a reaction to some event on the other side of the border. The service was axed in 2005, reinstated in 2007 and then withdrawn again just seven weeks later.
But we hear the link looks set to be restored from later this month, with a daily departure from Tallinn planned for 7.03 am and the return leg leaving St Petersburg at 5.32 pm. Travel time will be 7 hrs 15 mins on the eastbound run and 6 hrs 56 mins on the evening journey back to Estonia. These times include generous allowances for customs and immigration checks on the Estonian-Russian border, with a 30-minute stop scheduled at Narva and a 40-minute stop at Ivangorod in each direction.
The new service is tentatively scheduled to debut on 27 May. It will create a good link between Routes 45 and 46 in Europe by Rail: The Definitive Guide for Independent Travellers.
The new service from Tallinn to St Petersburg will provide a useful morning service from Tallinn to Narva and an evening return service from Narva back to Tallinn. Narva is the last community in Estonia prior to the Russian border. The Tallinn-Narva route is already served by a once-daily Estonian train. We travelled on that route last summer and gave an account of the journey in our Letter from Europe.
The timing of the night train from Tallinn to Moscow has been slightly amended. Departure from Tallinn is now scheduled for 5.30 pm (rather than 4.45 pm). Arrival in Moscow is still at 9.20 am. Both the Tallinn to Moscow overnight train and the proposed new daytime service to St Petersburg are operated by Estonian company GoRail in conjunction with RZD Russian Railways.
Text by Nicky Gardner and Susanne Kries