Land for railways: Why are rail surveys performed?

Land for railways: Why are rail surveys performed?

Published 3.10.2019

A railway infrastructure project involves various stages that have to be completed before the construction can begin. One of these important stages is the performance of a rail survey.

Picture of railway

Rail survey is an expropriation proceeding based on the Railways Act (110/2007) and the Act on the Redemption of Immoveable Property and Special Rights (603/1977). The rail survey is initiated by the Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment (ELY Centre) after the railway engineering plan has been approved. Based on an approved engineering plan, the ELY Centre is entitled to redeem the areas and rights specified in the engineering plan. A rail survey is always performed when a railway section is constructed or improved and new land areas are required for the railway and the related equipment, maintenance roads and drainage ditches.

In the Luumäki–Imatra railway project, the South-East Finland ELY Centre is represented by Paula Mattila. In addition to holding a Master of Science degree in land surveying, Mattila has over 20 years of work experience in the state’s land acquisition proceedings.

“Nowadays rail surveys are performed through the ELY Centres. In rail surveys, the ELY Centre’s role is to represent the railway infrastructure manager, that is, the state. We initiate the rail survey by requesting for it from the National Land Survey of Finland,” Mattila explains.

What does the performance of a rail survey entail in practice?

Rail surveys are performed by an impartial expropriation committee. The committee comprises a land surveyor commissioned by the National Land Survey of Finland and two trustees. Tapani Pukki acts as Land Surveyor in the Luumäki–Imatra railway project.

“The primary task of a rail survey is to expropriate the required land areas for the railway infrastructure manager so that it can begin the construction operations. Another important task is to order compensations for the landowners for the expropriated land areas and other property. The expropriation committee performs the rail survey and makes all related decisions,” Mattila explains.

When determining the land value, the expropriation committee utilises, for example, the Official Purchase Price Register which enables establishing the market price of land in the area.

“Safeguarding the landowners’ rights and ensuring that they receive adequate compensations is in everyone’s interests. The expropriation committee order most of the compensations, and in general, their decisions are beneficial from the landowner’s perspective,” Mattila states.

As the railway infrastructure manager’s representative, Mattila’s assignment is to prepare responses to the landowners’ compensation claims.

The two stages of rail survey

Rail surveys are performed in two stages. The first rail survey is performed at the initial stage, that is, when expropriating the railway areas and ordering compensations for the lost property.

The second rail survey takes place when the railway project is finished. In the Luumäki–Imatra railway project, this means the year 2023.

“In the second rail survey, the railway area’s realised borders and any harm and damage are examined. Of course, the expropriation committee prepares for the noise and vibration caused by the construction with various measurements in the first survey. Similarly, the committee endeavours to secure the access rights to the plots during the initial stage. Any harm and damage caused to real estates as a result of the railway project are compensated for in the second rail survey unless they have already been compensated for,” Mattila explains.

“If the work carried out in the railway construction site causes damage to the real estate, the landowner should contact the construction site management without delay rather than wait for the rail survey,” Mattila says.

The rail surveys are performed as the construction progresses. Mattila emphasises that in a private property, construction may not commence until the area has been expropriated. In the summer, the Luumäki–Imatra railway project involved an expropriation related to the twin track as well as another expropriation of a small land area in Muukko.

“In the near future, the National Land Survey of Finland will begin the field work, or marking the areas to be expropriated, for the sections Luumäki–Lappeenranta and Lappeenranta–Muukko. The objective is to begin the rail surveys of these sections in late 2019,” Mattila states.

Further reading

Information on the Luumäki–Imatra railway project