Railway tracks in Lohja on 3 February 2023. Another study has called into question the merits of a proposed high-speed rail link between Helsinki and Tampere, concluding that the project would cost 331 million euros for each of the 16 minutes it would reduce travel time between the two cities. (Antti Hämäläinen – Lehtikuva)

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A STUDY by the Finnish Consulting Group (FCG) has questioned the profitability of Suomirata, a mooted high-speed rail link between Helsinki and Tampere.

The FCG estimated in its study that the rail link would reduce travel time between the two cities by roughly 16 minutes – at a cost of 331 million euros for each minute gained – compared to the alternative of renovating the main line, reports Helsingin Sanomat.

The cost of the new rail link was estimated at 5.3 billion euros and that of renovating the existing one at slightly under one billion euros. Lentorata, a long-distance rail connection from Pasila via Helsinki Airport to Kerava, was included in the cost of the new link as a prerequisite for the infrastructure project.

The study was commissioned by the Regional Council of Häme, an expert and development organisation serving the region of Kanta-Häme. Municipalities such as Hämeenlinna and Riihimäki have been unenthusiastic about the mooted link as the high-speed trains would not stop at their stations.

Pasi Holm, a leading expert at the FCG, on Tuesday told Helsingin Sanomat that the study was carried out based on publicly available data that was also used for the recent feasibility study by the Ministry of Finance.

“The main takeaway from the study is that around half of the passengers between Helsinki and Tampere would continue using the main line, another half the new direct line,” he said.

Suomirata Oy, the company promoting the high-speed link between Tampere and Helsinki, has estimated that the high-speed link would attract significantly more passengers.

“Even if the direct line was constructed, the main line would still get over half of the passengers,” countered Holm. “They’d choose the main line because passengers from Helsinki would continue looking to get off at way stations, similarly to how passengers from the way stations would look to travel to Helsinki and Tampere.”

The study found that almost two-thirds (64%) of passengers currently start or terminate their commute at an interim station, whereas 36 per cent commute or terminate in Helsinki, Tampere or Vantaa.

Lauri Lyly, Tampere's representative for the design of Suomirata, reminded YLE on Tuesday that the main line will have to be renovated by the end of the decade but even the renovation will not create the additional capacity needed.

“We need more rails between Helsinki and Tampere,” he said. “Our strategic goal is to get quickly from Tampere to Helsinki, through Helsinki Airport. We haven’t re-considered that goal at all.”

The Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Transport and Communications in January concluded in their study that each of the three large railway infrastructure projects underway in the country would have an enormous price tag, as well as a massive carbon footprint.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT

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