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New arrangement for purchased and public service traffic to significantly increase regional availability of rail transport services

New arrangement for purchased and public service traffic to significantly increase regional availability of rail transport services

Press release 29.03.2019 15.45 fi sv en

A man peekin out of a train. Train on a railway station. (Photo: Juha Tuomi, Rodeo)

The Ministry of Transport and Communications and VR Group have agreed upon the implementation of rail transport via a purchased traffic agreement in 2020. The new agreement will particularly increase the number of short-distance trains. The Ministerial Finance Committee endorsed the agreement on 28 March 2019.

Alongside the purchase agreement, on 28 March 2019 the Ministry of Transport and Communications issued a decision on the public service transport services VR will be obliged to provide in 2020.

The arrangement for purchased and public service traffic also includes the three regional rail transport pilots for Kymenlaakso, Pirkanmaa and South Ostrobothnia, which have progressed to the further planning stage.

- The agreement comprehensively accounts for regional wishes regarding increased transport services, within the limits permitted by the fleet and rail capacity. In addition to this, the new transport service arrangement will better meet regional needs as both regions and municipalities have been involved in the planning, explains Anne Berner, Minister of Transport and Communications.

New traffic links, added trains and more convenient timetables

The arrangement for purchased and public service transport will add a total of 34 trains to the timetables.

In Kymenlaakso, commuter train services will be developed by investing in morning and afternoon commuter traffic, adding trains and developing the timetables. Four extra trains will run between Kouvola and Kotka on a daily basis, and the service of the trains that currently only run on weekdays will be expanded to cover weekends.

In Pirkanmaa, entirely new commuter train services will be made available between Nokia and Tampere. The route will be run by a total of 14 daily trains to serve commuters and students, in particular. The offering will also be expanded with nine trains between Toijala and Tampere, five of which will run via Hämeenlinna all the way to/from Riihimäki. The timetable structure in the Mänttä–Vilppula direction will be adjusted to allow two additional trains. 

In the South Ostrobothnia region, the availability of trains will be developed particularly between Seinäjoki and Ähtäri to serve commuters and tourists. This will be done by revising the timetable structure and adding two trains for weekday mornings and extra trains for weekends. Overall, the traffic volume of transport services in the “Haapamäki triangle” will increase by 24 per cent.

All of the regional pilots have also accounted for connecting links to other parts of Finland, where possible.

The purchased traffic agreement will also improve links to Lahti and Kouvola and from Helsinki and Helsinki Airport, especially in the evening. In addition to this, a new special late train from Helsinki to Hämeenlinna will be provided for weekend evenings.

Additional service days for the Kokkola–Ylivieska and Kuopio–Kajaani routes will be added under the public service transport decision. The route timetables will also be revised to better serve connecting transport, for example.

- It has been the aim of the Government to develop rail transport into a functional part of the national and regional whole of public transport services. This is very important for improving the functionality and competitiveness of our society and facilitating the daily activities of the general public. By increasing the share of rail traffic, we can promote sustainable transport and the attainment of the reduction targets imposed on traffic emissions, Minister Berner says.

The increases largely stem from extensive efforts to chart the needs and wishes of the respective regions. The Ministry of Transport and Communications has strived to make all additions that are possible within the limits of equipment availability and rail capacity. The realisation of the agreed upon transport service additions is predicated on the granting of the requisite rail capacity.

Agreement to require more detailed reporting

The purchase agreement also takes into account the requirements of EU Regulation 1370/2007 and its amending regulation in more detail than before and develops control arrangements and reporting obligations related to the agreement.

Under the purchase agreement, the State undertakes to purchase rail transport services from VR between 1 January 2020 and 31 December 2020. The agreement entails a continuation option, which enables the contracting parties to extend the validity of the agreement until 19 June 2022. The length of the option period takes into account the planned opening of passenger rail transport services for competition.

The transport services under the purchase agreement will be provided partially using class Sm2 and Sm4 trains, which will remain in VR’s ownership for the duration of the agreement’s validity.

The exclusive agreement between the Ministry of Transport and Communications and VR Group, including its amendments, will entitle the State to require VR to provide public service transport services up to a total net cost of MEUR 21 in 2020. The current commitment decision will remain in force until 14 December 2019.

There are grounds to make the purchase agreement and the commitment decision during the term of the caretaker government as the rail capacity for next year will be reserved in April 2019.

What happens next?

The rail transport arrangements prescribed by the commitment decision and purchased traffic agreement will begin at the end of the current commitment decision and at the start of the next timetable season on 15 December 2019. 

Inquiries:

Director of Unit Elina Thorström, tel. +358 295 34 2393

Chief Specialist Jani von Zansen, tel. +358 295 34 2060