An illustration of the interior of a train car distributed by Suomen Lähijunat. Established in 2022, Suomen Lähijunat on Thursday revealed it has acquired 11 commuter trains for an undisclosed price from the state-owned railway company VR, marking its first step toward launching commuter and regional services in 2025. The trains will be modernised thoroughly before the launch of services, said CEO Antero Alku. (Handout – Suomen Lähijunat)

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SUOMEN LÄHIJUNAT on Thursday said it has taken ownership of 11 commuter trains previously owned and operated by the state-owned railway company, VR, making it the first private company to own and operate passenger rail services in Finland.

The company was established last year in order to deliver regular rail services to two million Finns.

Suomen Lähijunat has laid out a plan to provide commuter rail services in large urban areas and regional services that connect municipal centres to one another, estimating that the services could start in 2025. Among the urban regions identified as potential service regions are Imatra, Jyväskylä, Kouvola, Kuopio, Mikkeli, Oulu, Tampere, Turku and Vaasa.

The plan suggests that it would provide commuter rail services at a frequency of about 30 minutes and regional services at a frequency of about two hours.

“We have a lot of restorable stations in Finland. There’s also a need for completely new stations. These measures enable us to extend the rail service network very affordably to Finns,” Jaakko Mustakallio, a deputy chief executive of Suomen Lähijunat, was quoted saying at a news conference on Thursday by Helsingin Sanomat.

Its entry to the market is made possible by the de-regulation of passenger rail services.

The rolling stock acquired from the state-owned company will be modernised to align with contemporary accessibility and technical standards before the launch of services, according to Suomen Lähijunat. CEO Antero Alku on Thursday revealed that the cost of the modernisation will be higher than the initial acquisition, the price of which has not been disclosed.

“We’ll effectively tear down the trains completely and build everything anew. We’ll bring in new technology,” he said.

The trains will be equipped with air conditioning, charging outlets, accessibility equipment and vending machines, for example. The company has revealed that it intends to acquire more trains in future, noting that increasing the use of rail services in urban regions is a key means to reduce transport emissions.

“VR’s old trains are one option, another is new trains. Also leasing trains is an option,” summarised Alku.

Mustakallio, though, reminded that there is a limited supply of ready-made rolling stock that is suitable for the narrower, 1,524-millimetre width of the rail network in Finland.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT

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