Tourism companies say that they are pleased with the restoration of train traffic to parts of southeastern Estonia, a scenic but out-of-the-way region where progress is sometimes measured in small increments.
ETV reported that the changes have been felt most in the small village of Piusa, a stop added on to the Tartu-Koidula line, reports news.err.ee.
Piusa has been waiting for the train service for close to a decade. Favorable conditions for it were created already last year, when the Tartu line was extended to near the Russian border at Koidula – a junction with the Võru line where the village sits. The Tartu-Koidula line was continued to Piusa last month.
Hikers and bikers are the main target group, many of them students or families from the Tartu area out for a day trip to the scenic natural (river) and man-made (sand quarry and caves) area. Demand is growing.
"If 10 to 20 people get off the train here every day, there's some life," said Meelis Krigul, who operates an artisan pottery studio in the old station building.
Director of the Piusa visitor center Raina Hani said that numbers of visitors are up. "The number of visitors who can't reach us some other way is increasing, for example pensioners have started coming from Tartu," she said.
Locals are still pushing for year-round train service. In September it is planned to revert to one departure a day from Tartu. For now the mid-morning trains from Tartu bound for Põlva are fairly full, as along the way Taevaskoja, an hour from Tartu, and Ilumetsa, half an hour further, remain popular destinations with hikers as well.