A major milestone in Helsinki's public transportation is set to be achieved as the high-speed tram line, known as Line 15, connecting Itäkeskus in Helsinki to Keilaniemi in Espoo, is scheduled to commence its operations on Saturday, October 21. This new 25-kilometer tram line will introduce tram services to entirely new areas while also providing convenient interchange connections with both the metro and commuter trains.
Mika Nykänen, CEO of Helsinki Regional Transport Authority (HSL), expressed enthusiasm, saying, "The new high-speed tram line offers HSL customers an entirely new, eco-friendly mode of transport, significantly improving the quality and comfort of cross-city transportation. The fact that we are able to introduce this service well ahead of schedule is a remarkable achievement for all involved in this project."
The Line 15 route includes a total of 34 tram stops and is expected to enhance the overall public transportation network in the Helsinki region by improving cross-city connections. The line will link major locations such as Itäkeskus, Aalto University, and Keilaniemi metro stations, as well as Oulunkylä, Huopalahti, and Leppävaara railway stations.
Notably, the high-speed tram (pikaratikka) will replace the existing trunk bus line 550. However, both the bus and the tram line 15 will run concurrently for a period before the cessation of line 550 by the end of the year.
The precise commencement time and inaugural festivities for the high-speed tram service on Saturday, October 21, will be announced in the near future. The schedules for the new tram line will be made available on the route planner well in advance of the service launch.
Some final touches, including the installation of up-to-date passenger information systems, will be carried out at tram stops and on the trams.
Remarkably, the completion of the high-speed tram line has occurred well ahead of the original schedule. Initially planned for summer 2024, the Raide-Jokeri alliance managed to complete the project ahead of time.
Juha Hakavuori, CEO of City Transport Helsinki (Kaupunkiliikenne), said, "City Transport Helsinki, in collaboration with the cities, has overseen the construction of the Raide-Jokeri tramline and depot, procured the trams, trained drivers, and other personnel. We are now ready to initiate operations."
Construction on the tramline began in 2019, and the project was handed over to the cities of Helsinki and Espoo, along with City Transport Helsinki, in late August 2023.
Olli Isotalo, Director of Urban Environment in Espoo, emphasized the benefits of the new cross-city tramline, stating, "The Raide-Jokeri tramline connects Espoo with a cross-city rail link, enhancing the precision, capacity, and comfort of cross-city public transportation."
Due to the quicker-than-expected completion, not all ordered trams have been delivered yet, so service will initially run with longer intervals compared to the final schedule. When all trams are delivered by the summer of 2024, the tram frequency will increase to a minimum of every 6 minutes.
In addition to the tramline itself, the surroundings of the tracks have seen numerous changes, including the construction of new residential areas in places like Oulunkylä in Helsinki and Perkkaa in Espoo. Furthermore, cycling and pedestrian routes in the vicinity of the tramline have also been upgraded.
Ville Lehmuskoski, Director of the Urban Environment Department in Helsinki, highlighted the impact of the Raide-Jokeri project, saying, "Raide-Jokeri is the first step towards Helsinki's development as a rail network city according to its master plan. The cross-city high-speed tramline has already spurred urban development and attracted construction projects along its route."