Elron says the Estonian government decided in mid-2017 that passenger services would be permanently curtailed on the 70km Lelle - Pärnu section of the 1520mm-gauge route because maintaining line speeds of more than 60km/h would be uneconomic.

Tallinn and Pärnu will be connected by the Estonian section of the Rail Baltica standard-gauge high-speed line, but this is not expected to open until 2026, leaving Pärnu, a resort city of more than 50,000 inhabitants, without a direct rail link to the capital for at least seven years.

Elron says journey times have increased from just over two hours to more than two-and-a-half hours in recent years due to speed restrictions, meaning “the train no longer fulfils its purpose of providing fast connections and is not attractive to the passenger.”

The two daily services from Tallinn to Pärnu will be replaced by three daily buses from Lelle to Pärnu, which will connect with Elron services. This means passengers from Pärnu will be able to reach Talinn by 08.35, compared with 09.30 for the first train in the 2018 timetable.

Elron says the withdrawal of Pärnu services will enable it to redeploy Stadler DMUs used on these workings to strengthen the timetable on other routes. Additional fast services will be introduced on the lines from Tallinn to Tartu, Viljandi and Rapla from December 9.