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The Finnish government is intent on splitting the state-owned railway company, VR, into four separate divisions in order to open the domestic passenger rail market to competition.
The Finnish government is intent on splitting the state-owned railway company, VR, into four separate divisions in order to open the domestic passenger rail market to competition.

Finland's six opposition parties have temporarily set aside their differences to draft an interpellation against a government proposal to open passenger rail transport to competition and re-organise the state-owned railway operator, VR.

Spokespersons for the parties urge the railway operator to instead address the issues in its current operations, such as its much-criticised to transition to electronic ticket sales.

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“The government is unfortunately not offering a solution to any of the issues in its reform [proposal],” they argue.

The Finnish government has proposed that passenger rail services be opened to competition in stages starting with local services in Southern Finland and the commuter services organised by Helsinki Region Transport (HSL) in the early 2020s. The objective of the de-regulation is to improve the quality of passenger rail services, reduce passenger rail fares and boost government finances.

The government has explained that the de-regulation is necessitated by the fourth railway package of the European Union – a legislative package designed to remove the remaining obstacles to the creation of a single rail network.

The opposition parties point out that impact assessments commissioned by the government indicate that the reform would be unlikely to increase passenger rail services, reduce passenger rail fares or generate additional revenue. 

“The benefits possibly generated by the reform to consumers remain unclear,” they state.

“Fares are unlikely to drop. Railway services and routes also would not increase, as the fleet of rolling stock is not set to grow alongside the entry of new operators. Estimates circulating in the public also suggest that splitting VR would result in the company seeing its value collapse.”

“Why is the government carrying out the reform, if it fails to benefit the customers of VR, the state as the owner of VR and the taxpayers?” the parties ask.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT
Photo: Emmi Korhonen – Lehtikuva
Source: Uusi Suomi

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