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Winter maintenance in the railway network

Close cooperation in the preparations for the winter season on railways

The Finnish Transport Infrastructure Agency prepares for the winter conditions with systematic railway maintenance. In the winter season 2018–2019, we will take the same action as in previous winters as well as use procedures to promote train punctuality. Snow removal is always performed on the terms of train timetables.

Each year, the Finnish Transport Infrastructure Agency has improved snow removal arrangements. The maintenance contractors draw up regional snow removal plans in cooperation with the traffic management and traffic operators. The aim of the snow removal plans is to minimise the disruptions in train services. Maintenance work in platform areas is scheduled according to the timetables of passenger transport.

Contractors are the key success factors in winter maintenance

The Finnish railway network is divided into twelve maintenance areas. As a rule, five-year basic maintenance contracts, with an option of two additional years, are entered for these areas. Competitive tendering is currently ongoing in several different maintenance areas. These contracts include winter maintenance. In all maintenance areas, snow removal from platforms and station areas is divided into three service level categories, while snow removal from track areas is divided into two service level categories. The contractors carry out the maintenance according to the agreed upon service level, using their own methods and resources.

The key development goals of winter maintenance include high-class implementation and sufficient supervision of maintenance contracts. The incentive system used in the maintenance contract includes both a contractual penalty and incentives to ensure safe, high-quality and timely maintenance.

Actions to improve train punctuality next winter

The following actions to improve train punctuality will be taken in winter 2018–2019:

  • The snow removal work is planned in cooperation with traffic management, the Finnish Transport Infrastructure Agency and the maintenance provider. The cooperation procedures vary between different maintenance areas, but, for example, in Southern Finland, where the traffic volumes are the greatest, the works are always planned a week ahead.  The snow removal plans include snow removal notices, worksite limitations and changes in the train departure and arrival tracks.
  • We will continue the good practices of reserving part of the railway yard for snow removal both in the evenings and at night. 
  • We will continue to actively fell trees in the vicinity of the railway network.
  • Fixed snowbrushes installed in the turnouts will improve the turnout operations and reduce the amount of snow removal. There are snowbrushes in more than 100 turnouts, and even more will be installed.
  • If exceptionally challenging weather conditions are forecast, traffic management, VR, and, in the Uusimaa maintenance area, Helsinki Region Transport will reduce the train services through a joint decision. This will also improve the disruption tolerance of the railway network and reduce the risk of extensive disruptions.
  • In Maintenance Area 2 (on the southwestern coast of Finland), the ongoing maintenance contract using the project alliancing model has been further developed and extended to Maintenance Area 1 (Uusimaa) through competitive tendering (from 2020).
  • Research is being carried out to make winter maintenance more effective. Surveys address, among other things, the pneumatic appliances, defrosting methods and the use of friction gel to improve the hold of the locomotive wheels. The Finnish Transport Infrastructure Agency and the different maintenance operators use the digital application RAIKU with the aim of achieving more exact planning and timely allocation of maintenance actions. The goal is to implement a common system for managing the condition data of railways to achieve digital, mobile and up-to-date reporting.