Report on the East Railway completed
The new East Railway would improve transport connections in Eastern and Southern Finland and from Helsinki to Saint Petersburg. It would both shorten the route and reduce the travel time between Helsinki and Kouvola. The East Railway would be a significant new connection from Eastern Finland via Kouvola and Porvoo to Helsinki Airport. However, reductions in travel times would be moderate in relation to investment costs. This is apparent from the report on the East Railway published on 5 April 2019.
In autumn 2018, Minister of Transport and Communications Anne Berner commissioned a group to investigate how a railway from Helsinki Airport via Porvoo to Kouvola would affect travel times. The so-called East Railway (Airport Line–Porvoo–Kouvola) would be a new 106-kilometre-long railway line. The East Railway would diverge from the Airport Line in Kytömaa, north of Kerava, in the tunnel section of the Airport Line and join the current railway line at Koria halt, west of Kouvola. The journey from Helsinki to Kouvola would be reduced by around 27 kilometres compared to the current railway line via Lahti.
The underlying supposition of the report on the East Railway is that the Airport Line has been built. Intended especially for long-distance trains, the proposed Airport Line would run from Pasila via Helsinki Airport to the main railway. The implementation of the Airport Line depends on the execution of decisions related to special purpose vehicles proposed by the Ministerial Committee on Economic Policy in February 2019 to develop investments in rail traffic. According to preliminary estimates, the Airport Line could potentially begin operation as early as at the beginning of the 2030s.
Reduced travel times and increased passenger volumes
According to the Finnish Transport Infrastructure Agency, investing in both the Airport Line and East Railway and using high-speed trains would result in the shortest travel time between Helsinki Airport and Kouvola. With a 220 km/h speed limit, travel times between Helsinki and Kouvola would be reduced by 13 minutes and between Helsinki and Pietari 9 minutes from the present. With a 300 km/h speed limit, the savings in travel times would be 19 minutes and 15 minutes.
If the East Railway were built, passenger volumes between Helsinki and Kouvola would grow by about 9% by 2050 in comparison with leaving it unbuilt. In addition, passenger volumes could also be increased by growing demand in Saint Petersburg.
A cost estimate and economic effects
According to a preliminary estimate by the Finnish Transport Infrastructure Agency, the new 106-kilometre railway line would cost €1.7 billion. The estimate is indicative. The report states that the East Railway would increase the demand for train traffic. According to profitability calculations for traffic projects, benefits for the next 30 years would amount to 13% of project costs, which makes the cost-benefit ratio 0.13. Larger demand volumes and, for example, measures carried out to meet climate objectives that improve the conditions for rail traffic would have a positive effect on the results of the cost-benefit analysis. However, according to information currently available, the project would not be feasible in overall financial terms.
While the Helsinki–Porvoo–Kouvola railway line would not expand the current employment area, which already extends from Helsinki to Kouvola, it would enable closer cooperation between the various labour market regions. The new railway line would allow more flexibility in choosing one’s place of residence and place of work. The most significant labour market effects would take place in the Helsinki–Porvoo region. The new railway would reduce the travel time from Porvoo to Helsinki to around 33 minutes, while it now takes 55–65 minutes by bus.
According to the report, the state budgetary funding is currently insufficient for building the East Railway in a sustainable way. The availability of necessary funding could be investigated by utilising the model on special purpose vehicles in cooperation with regional actors.
The working group consisted of representatives of the Ministry of Transport and Communications, Finnish Transport Infrastructure Agency, Regional Council of South Karelia, Regional Council of South Savo, Regional Council of Kainuu, Regional Council of Kymenlaakso, Regional Council of North Karelia, Regional Council of Pohjois-Savo, Helsinki-Uusimaa Regional Council, City of Kouvola and City of Porvoo.
For more information, please contact:
Director General Sabina Lindström, tel. +358 (0) 40 527 6103, Twitter @LindstromSabina