Atte Harjanne, the chairperson of the Green Parliamentary Group, reacted at a news conference in Helsinki on 10 May 2022. Harjanne on Thursday said Finland should decide on a case-by-case basis whether or not to switch from its rail gauge of 1,524 millimetres to the European standard of 1,435 millimetres. (Roni Rekomaa – Lehtikuva)

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A PROPOSAL by the European Commission that Finland adopt the European standard rail gauge of 1,435 millimetres has also received some support in Finland.

The European Commission has proposed that the country adopt the gauge in all new railway projects and migrate from its current 1,524-millimetre gauge also on all railway sections where it is justified based on a cost-benefit analysis.

Minister of Transport and Communications Timo Harakka (SDP) shot down the proposal, describing it as unacceptable and unreasonable. Helsingin Sanomat on Thursday wrote that the proposal has also garnered some support among policy-makers and industry representatives in the country.

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Päivi Wood, a senior advisor at Finland Chamber of Commerce, on Thursday said the proposal is “strategically significant” given the shift that has occurred in the logistical position of Finland due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

“Finland’s logistical position at the intersection of the east and west is turning into a terminal at the northern edge of Europe. In regards to Finland, the security-policy situation calls for stronger links to the south and west also to enable military mobility,” she argued in a press release, adding that the adopting the narrower gauge would also create new opportunities to utilise funding from the EU.

“The European rail gauge would also facilitate the entry of [railway] operators to the Finnish market,” told Wood.

Juho Romakkaniemi, the CEO of Finland Chamber of Commerce, stated on Twitter that the change would create better connections via Sweden to Europe and Nato ports in Norway.

Some policy-makers similarly drew attention to the positive effects of the proposal. Atte Harjanne, the chairperson of the Green Parliamentary Group, reminded that railways should be built with a vision that extends beyond the present day – tens if not hundreds of years into future.

“I suppose it’d be wise if we had European rails. It’d naturally be good to check on a case-by-case basis when when the new and when the old [gauge] is called for,” he tweeted, drawing support from his counterpart at the Swedish People’s Parliamentary Group, Anders Adlercreutz.

Harakka on Thursday responded to the two policy-makers by stressing that the key is that decisions on the rail gauge are made by Finland.

“The most important thing is that all aspects of the decision make sense. And naturally that Finland itself makes the decision,” he outlined.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT

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