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What happened on the railways during the decade?

What happened on the railways during the decade?

Published 31.12.2019

A real renaissance of railway traffic is now visible. Factors in the background include not only climate objectives but also the investments made in the smooth operation and attractiveness of railway traffic. Maintenance is done on nearly 6,000 km of railways every day, but what has changed in railway traffic during the decade?

The number of passenger traffic journeys has continued to increase. Whilst 68 million trips were made in 2010, the current number is 88 million. The number of passengers in commuter traffic has increased significantly from 55 million to 74 million journeys per year.

At the start of the decade, the number of passengers per year in long-distance transport consisted of slightly over 13 million journeys, and the same number will be reached at the end of the decade. The price competition between bus companies and long-distance trains had an effect on the downswing in the number of passengers in 2013. The number of passengers started to increase again in 2017, and the trend has continued to grow stronger. In addition to the change in the price level, dynamic pricing has also affected the demand.

Fast railway connections attract passenger traffic

Among other things, the Ring Rail Line has spurred on the growth of commuter traffic. There has not been much new railway construction during the decade, but the Ring Rail Line has found users quickly. Roughly 25,000 passengers depart from and arrive at the five new stations of the Ring Rail Line on weekdays. Travel has also increased in most of the other old stations along the Ring Rail Line. The Ring Rail Line offers a train connection to the Helsinki Airport, and it has had a significant impact on the land use along the whole railway.

Fast railway connections that are important to the attractiveness of passenger traffic, meaning railway sections enabling speeds higher than 160 km/h, have been built during this decade on the sections Seinäjoki-Oulu and Lahti-Kouvola-Luumäki-Vainikkala (as well as the Allegro train to St. Petersburg). A fast railway connection also means that the level crossings have been removed from along the way. At the moment, there is a total of 1,120 km of fast railway connections in Finland.

There are approx. 200 stations and traffic points along the railways. The number has remained roughly the same. Travel centre projects have improved the comfort of travel, and the accessibility of platform areas has improved in connection with the larger projects.

The market share of passenger traffic on railways has remained at roughly five per cent for a long time, but the passenger volumes this year will raise the share closer to 6%. At 82%, passenger cars still have clearly the largest market share of all modes of transport. From the perspective of reaching the climate goals, the market share should be increased. Sweden, Denmark and the Netherlands are examples of countries, in which the market share of railway traffic is 10%.

Larger loads with an electrified network

The development of the amount of freight traffic on railways has varied by year; for example, the increase in the largest permitted mass of lorries in 2013 has affected the demand. Despite this, there has been growth since 2015.  The total amounts transported have climbed from 35 to 40 million tonnes. There is more domestic freight traffic, but the number of tonnes in international freight traffic in particular has grown. Timber transport for the forest industry is still the largest product group.

The smooth functioning and efficiency of the goods transport has been improved significantly. Electrification and increasing the axle load improve the cost-effectiveness the most. The length of electrified railways has increased by more than 200 kilometres. The sections Jyväskylä-Äänekoski, Seinäjoki-Vaasa and Rovaniemi-Kemijärvi are some of the longest. The busiest sections of the railway have already been electrified, but there are still new electrification projects both planned and in progress. Electrification makes traffic not only more environmentally friendly but also easier, because it is no longer necessary to change engines along the way. A total of 3,331 km of the Finnish rail network has now been electrified.

The efficiency of railway transport is improved by increasing the axle load. The network with an axle load of 25 tonnes has clearly expanded during this decade, and it now extends to 1,319 km. During this decade, the increase to 25 tonnes has been implemented in the Jämsänkoski-Tampere-Kokemäki-Rauma section, used to transport paper, among other things, as well as the Tampere-Seinäjoki-Oulu section (forest and metal industry transports), the Tuomioja-Raahe-Rautaruukki section (metal transports) and the Lahti-Vainikkala section (forest and chemical industry transports).

Projects serving freight traffic in particular included the Riihimäki and Pännäinen triangles, both of which make it easier to operate trains without changing engines or driving around.