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Winter maintenance in the railway network

The Finnish Transport Infrastructure Agency is also responsible for the maintenance of the state railway network in the winter. The Finnish Transport Infrastructure Agency orders winter maintenance from contractors. Cooperation between the Finnish Transport Infrastructure Agency, contractors, traffic management and railway operators, for example, plays a major role in the winter maintenance of railways.

What does the railway network’s winter maintenance mean in practice?

Winter maintenance in the railway network is, above all, a battle against snow and ice. The Finnish Transport Infrastructure Agency uses the following methods, among others:

  • Snow removal is mainly carried out mechanically using snow ploughs, brushes and snow blowers. In addition, in some railway yards, snow carriages are used to collect and transport snow to snow disposal sites.
  • Snow patrols also play a key role, cleaning the switches with brushes and shovels.
  • The most traffic-critical switches are equipped with heating to melt snow and ice from the switch. Approximately one hundred switches are equipped with fixed snowbrushes, and more are being installed.
  • Trees in the vicinity of the railway network are being cleared to prevent trees from falling onto the track.

How to prepare for winter in the railway network?

The Finnish Transport Infrastructure Agency prepares for winter on the railways in a proactive, systematic manner.

Snow removal measures are planned in cooperation with traffic management, the Agency and the maintenance contractor. The aim of the plans is to ensure minimal disturbance in train services. Scheduled passenger traffic is taken into account in the timing of platform area maintenance work.

Weather forecasts of the Finnish Meteorological Institute play an important role in the preparation. If exceptionally challenging weather conditions are forecast, train services will be reduced under a joint decision between the involved parties. Reduced service offers improved possibilities to carry out maintenance work and reduces the risk of disruptions in the railway network.

However, despite good plans, there may be surprises. Therefore, in the winter season, each maintenance area has a 24/7 standby service for repairs.

Contractors play a key role in the success of winter maintenance

The Finnish railway network is divided into twelve maintenance areas. 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 maintenance measures are carried out by contractors selected by competitive tendering. Each contractor implements the maintenance in accordance with the agreed service level using the methods and resources of its own choosing.