VANTAA, a roughly 215,000-resident city in Southern Finland, is set to become the fourth city in the country with a tram service, along with Helsinki, Espoo and Tampere.
The Vantaa City Council on Monday evening voted 41 for and 26 against a long-discussed plan to build a tram line connecting Helsinki Airport through Tikkurila and Hakunila to Mellunmäki, an eastern district of Helsinki.
The 19.3-kilometre, 27-stop line has been designed to supplement the public transport system in the capital region, offering connections to not only the airport but also to the ring road and Helsinki Metro through Mellunmäki. Proponents have argued that the line will enhance the appeal and status of eastern neighbourhoods located along the line, drawing both commercial and residential construction to the area.
The City of Vantaa has calculated that around 60,000 new residents and 30,000 new jobs could be found along the line.
The construction is expected to start next year, take around four years and cost altogether 606 million euros. The costs, though, are projected to be more than offset by the benefits, with the city projecting that it could pocket almost 800 million euros from plot sales and land use agreements, according to Helsingin Sanomat.
Vantaa itself would cover 414 million euros of the project costs. Another 177 million euros would be provided by the state and 10.5 million euros by the City of Helsinki.
Helsingin Sanomat reported that the proposal drew opposition especially from the ranks of the Finns Party. Many of the opponents from across party lines expressed their doubts about the accuracy of the calculations. Kai-Ari Lundell (PS) even argued that people have been misled, highlighting that the cost estimate has increased by a few hundred million euros while the passenger volume estimate has been slashed to around 30,000.
Maarit Raja-Aho (NCP), the chairperson of the well-being services county of Vantaa—Kerava, described the tram connection as too costly and slow, and criticised the project for failing to bring any benefits to western parts of Vantaa.
“I’d even be ready to consider building a metro in Vantaa because it’d be a rapid mean of transport,” she said.
Hanna Valtanen (Greens) floated the idea of painting the trams in the signature neon green of Käärijä, the Finnish artist who came in scond at Eurovision Song Contest 2023, who is from Vantaa.
CORRECTION: Vantaa's population is roughly 215,000, not 251,000 as an unedited version of this story erroneously stated.
Aleksi Teivainen – HT