The One Hour Train connection planned between Turku and Helsinki has taken major steps forward during the past months. In February 2020, the Finnish State and the cities of Turku, Espoo, Helsinki, Salo, Lohja, Vihti and Kirkkonummi agreed on a project enterprise that will take care of planning and funding of the plans related to the One Hour Train up to starting of construction.
In practice, the project enterprise will be responsible for the planning of the Espoo–Salo direct railway and the Salo–Turku rails. The master planning of the Espoo–Salo direct railway will be completed during the spring, and planning of the tracks will start after that. The remaining planning costs of the One Hour Train are estimated to total 75 million euros. The State will cover 51 per cent of the costs and the cities participating in the project enterprise 49 per cent. The Espoo city railway and the Turku railyards from the Port to the Kupittaa station included in the One Hour Train project are ready for construction and their implementation will be decided on separately.
Uniform approach of the province helps the project forward
Janne Virtanen, Director for Promotion of Regional Interests in the Regional Council of Southwest Finland refers to himself as a One Hour Train veteran and is satisfied with the progress of the rail project.
”I started at the project already some twelve years ago. We have worked continuously for forwarding the rail project without breaks, and many positive things have been achieved. The progress of the case is helped by the uniform approach of the province and unambiguous views about the importance of the project to the success of the whole of Finland. The planning of the One Hour Train has already advanced far thanks to the funding granted by the previous Government, and the recent funding decision will allow for the completion of the planning phase up to the start of construction. However, the decision on the implementation of the rail connection will probably have to wait for the next Government, and if political agreement is reached, the project could be completed in the early 2030s”, Janne Virtanen says.
Growth in economy and reduction in emissions
A fast rail connection between Turku and Helsinki is simultaneously a solution for business policy and climate policy issues. The One Hour Train will improve the mobility of labour by forming a commuting area for 1.5 million Finns, which will support employment and generate growth and vitality along the tracks. According to a study commissioned by the Finnish Transport Agency, improved accessibility, expanded labour market areas and operating areas of companies, and the consequent growth of productivity will increase the attraction of the region for new business operations and further for the growth of employment and population.
”The One Hour Train is also a response to Finland’s ambitious climate and emission goals. The new rail connection will make the travel time between Turku and Helsinki by train considerably shorter than by car, which will encourage people to switch from private cars and buses to train. Once completed, the railway will bring a train connection to Lohja and Vihti for the first time, and will also replace road traffic between Turku and Salo and in local traffic in Western Uusimaa. The track is primarily intended for passenger traffic, but it can also be used for goods transports, which would further cut down the emissions caused by traffic”, Janne Virtanen says.
One Hour Train provides a quick access to continental Europe
For the Port of Turku, the One Hour Train is important especially in terms of tourism. The fast train connection from Helsinki to the Port of Turku would increase the passenger volumes via Turku to Sweden and the Åland Islands, because it would shorten the travel time, and the timetables would be more convenient. The ships that depart from Turku in the morning arrive in Åland in the daytime, while the ships that depart from Helsinki arrive there at night. The One Hour Train would also allow people from the Helsinki region to leave after work and catch the ships departing from Turku in the evening.
”Via the Port of Turku, the One Hour Train also opens up opportunities for international rail travel all over Europe. You can first take the ferry to Stockholm and continue from there by train through Denmark and Germany. Surface travel is already a strong trend in Sweden where the government programme promises to improve the night-train connections from Sweden to continental Europe in order to facilitate climate-friendly travelling. The first connections will be opened within the next few years, so the One Hour Train will be part of the existing European rail network as soon as it is completed. In addition, the One Hour Train will enhance the connection between Stockholm and St. Petersburg, which will strengthen the attraction of the rail connection also for the Port of Turku”, Janne Virtanen stresses.