Finland’s transport policy lines for the future set out
Transport policy planning should be incorporated in the development of society at large. Close cooperation between different administrative branches will lay down a firm foundation for a smoothly functioning transport system and an efficient urban structure. Fresh thinking is required in order to make society function more efficiently and to take advantage of the joint resources in a sensible way.
The Finnish Government submitted its transport policy report to Parliament on 12 April, setting out policy lines for 2012-2022.
Transport to be developed as an integral part of society
The Government Programme emphasises that transport policy should be linked comprehensively to the framework of economic, financial, employment and regional development. Effective transport policy can only be made in cooperation between different ministries, and looking at one sector is not enough; measures are needed to improve overall social effectiveness. Particular focus is to be placed on steps to deepen cooperation between the Ministry of Transport and Communications, Ministry of Employment and the Economy and Ministry of the Environment.
Vitality of the shipping sector is of primary importance for Finnish competitiveness. In an effort to safeguard a good operating environment for shipping, a broad-based national strategy will be drafted for the sector. As far as transport is concerned, the strategy will focus on adaptation to the tightening environmental regulations, issues around support policy, reform of fairway dues, procurement of icebreaker fleet together with port and shipyard questions.
A separate strategy is also to be prepared for air transport with the purpose of examining its future prospects and assessing the appropriateness of Finland's airport network together with the role of the State in arranging air transport services.
Bold new thinking required
With new mindsets and close cooperation, the effectiveness and productivity of operations can be significantly improved. Preparation of the transport policy report included experimental projects which examined, for example, how transport services procured by the state and municipalities could be organised in a more efficient way, and how the planning of road sections could be improved. The experiments show that problems associated with transport are easier to solve when different actors work together, use a diverse range of measures, invest in customers, and take steps to include various players in the work. Transport investment plans for the next few years will be re-evaluated with a view to finding more cost-effective solutions serving road users and people living close to the roads, as well as municipalities and businesses.
Investments to be made - rail transport in focus
Focus of transport funding will be shifted from new investment to maintenance of the existing transport network. Smooth everyday mobility of people is particularly important. At its discussion on spending limits on 22 March 2012, the Government agreed which transport investment projects are to be launched during this term of office. It made a historic decision in allocating more funding to rail projects than to roads. In an effort to improve punctuality of trains, ground frost damage will be repaired on all sections of the rail network, and the capacity of the main rail line will be raised in the south of Finland. These measures will have a positive impact on the punctuality of train services in all parts of the country.
The report includes an investment programme designed to guide planning, extending over the next two government terms. In order to ensure far-reaching development of transport policy, the Government resolved that three rail projects should be launched during the next Government's term of office, the City Rail Loop project being the most significant of these.
Determined action to develop public transport
The popularity of public transport can be increased if large cities take action to invest in it. The Government is committed to supporting light rail projects in Turku and Tampere by contributing with a 30 per cent funding share. Further decisions will be made later on, based on the expenses and scope of the projects concerned. By a funding share of 50 per cent, the State is also committed to providing financing for city rail projects in large cities. In rural areas, on the other hand, action will be taken to develop demand-responsive public transport. Cost savings can be achieved by combining transport services falling under different administrative branches, such as school transport, transport services in the social and health sector, and transport organised by the Finnish Social Insurance Institution. Resources becoming available as a result of this be directed at public transport development and at action to safeguard future transport services.
Environmentally friendly transport
The State wishes to set an example in environmental matters. To this effect, it will establish annual emission limits for organisations operating under it in order to guide vehicle procurement and transport arrangements. The State is also willing to promote the development of low-carbon vehicle technologies through taxation measures. Taxation and charging policy together with new ways of transport pricing will help guide the sector towards increasingly sustainable solutions.
Open preparation to reach the joint targets
Drafting of the transport policy report was an exceptionally open process. Preparations were led by a ministerial working group on transport and communications policy under the direction of Minister of Transport Ms Merja Kyllönen. It was assisted by a working group comprising public servants from the Ministry of Transport and Communications, Ministry of Employment and the Economy, Ministry of the Environment, Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Social Affairs and Health. Stakeholders in transport administration took active part in the preparation of the report.
Mr Sauli Hievanen, Special Adviser to the Minister of Transport, tel. +358 40 016 5004
Mr Mikael Nyberg, Director of Unit, tel. +358 40 837 8794
Ms Piia Karjalainen, Senior Adviser, tel. +358 40 500 6410