MINNA ARVE (NCP), the Mayor of Turku, has voiced her bafflement at the apparent change of heart of the government on plans to develop the railway infrastructure in Finland.
Minister of Transport and Communications Sanna Marin (SDP) on Friday confirmed to Kauppalehti that VR will not be split into four separate entities, signalling the reversal of yet another decision made by her predecessor, Anne Berner (Centre).
“The tendering process has been put on hold. This means there’ll be no break-up of VR,” she stated to the commerce-oriented newspaper.
The state-owned railway company was to be split into four separate entities – including one for managing state-owned rolling stock and another for managing state-owned terminals – in order to establish an equal competitive landscape and allow operators to enter the passenger rail market without their own stock.
“You can come here to compete, but every operator has to have its own rolling stock. VR’s rolling stock won’t be handed over to these operators, but they’ll have to invest in it themselves,” said Marin.
Marin on Friday also said to STT she is not particularly optimistic that the work to build the long-discussed high-speed rail connections can commence during the current parliamentary term.
“Whenever we’re talking about major decisions like the one-hour train we’re talking about a much longer time period than a single electoral term,” she said in an interview with the Finnish news agency.
Arve on Saturday warned that postponing the rail infrastructure projects could result in the loss of hundreds of millions of euros in EU subsidies.
“It’d be a shame if this government made a U-turn and chose not to make the large investments in environment-friendly rail transport. If the one-hour train projects is postponed, there’s a risk that we lose hundreds of millions in EU subsidies to other European countries. We need decisions now. Waiting won’t help,” she said.
The Finnish government has committed to moving forward with three major rail infrastructure projects: expanding the main line to create a high-speed connection between Helsinki and Tampere, building a new high-speed connection between Helsinki and Turku, and building a new rail section between Porvoo and Kouvola.
A civil society organisation has pointed out that there would be a more environment-friendly alternative to laying new tracks between Helsinki and Turku: repairing and developing the coastal line between the two cities.
“This would surely be a lot quicker and cheaper way to ease commuting,” tweeted Henrik Elonheimo, a development manager at the National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL).
Aleksi Teivainen – HT
Source: Uusi Suomi