Anne Berner (Centre), the Minister of Transport and Communications, says opening rail transport to competition is a prerequisite for proceeding with the infrastructure projects. (Credit: Vesa Moilanen – Lehtikuva)

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ANNE BERNER (Centre), the Minister of Transport and Communications, has revealed that a new state-owned special-purpose company will be established to oversee the development of high-speed rail links between Helsinki and Turku, and Helsinki and Tampere.

“Efficient rail transport services are necessary to facilitate everyday mobility and expand travel-to-work areas, and consequently a key contributor to the competitiveness of Finland,” she said on Friday.

The wholly state-owned company will consist of five subsidiaries, two of which are dedicated to developing rolling stock and railway-related real estate, another two to promoting the high-speed rail link projects, and one to promoting Rail Baltica, a greenfield railway infrastructure project linking Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland.

Berner on Friday argued that opening rail transport to competition is a prerequisite for proceeding with the large infrastructure development projects.

The Finnish government, she added, will provide a capital injection of 100 million euros to the special-purpose company, which is tentatively called Suomen Rata. The company will then distribute almost 30 million euros of the capital among the three project-specific companies.

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The Helsinki—Turku high-speed rail link is estimated to cost roughly two billion euros and, once completed, attract around 1.6 million passengers a year. Linking Helsinki and Tampere via Helsinki Airport, in turn, is estimated to cost roughly 5.5 billion euros and the high-speed services to attract around 6.5 million passengers a year.

“It is clear that budget appropriations will not suffice to carry out the necessary large-scale investments in railway infrastructure, and that is why new financing methods are needed,” admitted Berner.

“We have looked for a solution throughout the electoral term, and it is great that one has now been found in co-operation with the cities.”

The rest of the capital will be disbursed to the rolling stock company to kick-start the modernisation of the ageing equipment, according to a press release from the Ministry of Transport and Communications.

The purpose of the real estate company is to create a competition-neutral market environment for all operators by providing equal access to state-owned depots, stations, terminals and maintenance facilities, as well as the services they provide.

Berner declared her willingness to open passenger rail transport to competition already in August 2017.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT

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