12 Dec 2019
EUR 17.5 million
Infrastructure, transportation and telecom
It is 3:59 am on 1 July when the first scheduled train sets out from Helsinki’s Central Railway Station on a round trip via Helsinki Airport. Platform 7 is crowded this sunny morning as train enthusiasts and morning commuters enjoy free coffee and buns. There is plenty to celebrate, as the new Ring Rail Line is expected to cut travel times and CO2 emissions while increasing efficiency in labour and service markets.
“Welcome to this legendary first trip,” train driver Lauri Pouttu announces over the intercom as he sets out towards the first of 24 stations along the 18-kilometre ring rail line. The modern Flirt trains operating on the line are white and green. The trains that run clockwise from Helsinki are labelled “P” and those running anticlockwise are labelled “I”.
The Ring Rail Line is a long-anticipated public transport line that links Finland’s main rail line and the smaller Vantaankoski line via the airport. Travelling at speeds of up to 120 km/h, the journey from the centre of Helsinki to the airport takes about 30 minutes. The service is frequent, as it runs every ten minutes in both directions during peak hours.
Train conductor Henri Turkia has been waiting for the line to be ready since the construction work, including eight kilometres of tunnel, started in 2009.
“This line really improves transportation for people living here, and makes it much easier for tourists and travellers,” Turkia says and informs a passenger that the normal ticket price for adults is five euros.
30 minutes to the airport
In addition to the underground train station at the airport, which is not yet quite ready, four other new stations have been built in Vehkala, Kivistö, Aviapolis and Leinelä.
Among the many morning commuters boarding the train at Hiekkaharju station this early morning, one presents herself as Susanna.
“It would actually have been much quicker for me to travel in the opposite direction, but I decided that I wanted to see the new stations built on the line.”
At 4:29 am, precisely 30 minutes since it began its journey, the train drives slowly past the airport train station. This particular station will be taken into use on 10 July. Until the connections between the train station and the airport terminals are ready later this autumn, passengers will have to take a five-minute bus ride to reach the gates. The new Ring Rail Line is expected to help Helsinki Airport and national carrier Finnair to maintain the competitive transit traffic between Europe and Asia.
Sampo Ruohomäki, one of many train enthusiasts aboard the train, says it is great that it is now possible to reach the airport by rail as well.
“And also that this ring rail nicely connects the different parts of Vantaa,” he adds.
The improved transportation along the Ring Rail Line—which replaces the old and cherished “M” train service along the Vantaankoski line—has already given rise to new housing areas alongside the route.
“Tonight I have travelled on the last ‘M’ train and the first ‘I’ train. Now I’m going home to get some sleep,” says Jenna Kuoppala, a frequent passenger to and from the train station in Malminkartano.
Financing the future
The EUR 774 million Ring Rail Line project includes improvements to nearby highways and the first stage of a travel centre at Tikkurila train station on the main line. The project is financed by the Finnish state, airport operator Finavia and the City of Vantaa. The line has also received funds from the European Union’s Trans-European Transport Networks (TEN-T) programme.
NIB and the city of Vantaa have signed a twenty-year-maturity loan of 52 million euros for the construction of the ring rail.
At 5:02 am, one hour and three minutes after the journey started, train driver Lauri Pouttu gently stops the train at Helsinki Central Railway Station, and his passengers clap their hands in appreciation before they pour out on Platform 17.
“It was good to try the new rail line. The trip went well and the new stations also seem nice,” Pouttu says smilingly. “This is a good start.”