Finland - General Information
National Railway System
Ratahallintokeskus (in Swedish, Banförvaltningscentralen) is responsible for infrastructure and VR Oy (VR AB) operates the trains. VR used to be the official abbreviation of Valtionrautatiet (= State railway), but is now the full company name.
Finnish and Swedish are both official languages of Finland. Swedish is the first language of only 6% of the population, who live mainly in the south and west. Many public notices and signs are in both languages. In towns where the Swedish place name is used, the Finnish version is almost always shown as well.
numeric 10; alpha FIN. This is not shown on VR rolling stock, which is not numbered according to the UIC system.
VR Timetables for long distance trains: www.vr.fi/eng/aikataulut/tulostettavat_aikataulut/index.shtml; a diagrammatic route map is available at: www.vr.fi/eng/aikataulut/reittikartat. There is a link to the section for Helsinki suburban services, where there are station departure lists in PDF format, but not full timetables.
VR Oy publishes four timetable booklets. Kaukoliikenne (in Finnish), Fjärrtrafik (in Swedish) and Rail Pocket Guide (in English) show all main line trains, plus outline details of the Helsinki suburban services. Lähiliikenne Närtrafik, which is bi-lingual Finnish and Swedish, gives full details of Helsinki suburban services. Suomen Kulkuneuvot (in Swedish Finlands Kommunikationer) is produced by Edita Oy, PL 800, 00043 Edita. It shows rail, bus, air and boat services throughout Finland and contains explanatory notes in Finnish, Swedish, English, French, German and Russian. It is not sold at railway stations, but can be purchased at large bookshops.
Ratahallintokeskus produces a system map, but this is not generally available for public sale. Timetables contain rudimentary maps showing only the main stations. Railways are depicted well in GT Tiekartasto Suomi-Finland, a road atlas with maps at 1:200,000 (1:400,000 north of Oulo).
Supplements or enhanced fares are payable for travel on IC, IC2 and Pendolino trains. These include a seat reservation. Reserved seats are not marked as such on any type of long-distance train.
If tickets are purchased or a supplement paid on the train, an additional charge is made, unless the passenger boarded at a station where there was no facility to buy a ticket. If a ticket is purchased from a machine there is a small rebate on the price. A penalty fare system operates on Helsinki suburban trains, and passengers without a ticket must board a carriage where tickets are sold by staff. Carriages in which tickets cannot be purchased are indicated by prominent signs on the outside.
1524 mm. There are 1435 mm gauge lines at Turku, Uusikaupunki, and Hanko, which are used in connection with the train ferries there. The lines at Turku are operated by Finnlines Oy and by SeaWind Line Oy. Those at Uusikaupunki and Hanko are currently not in operation. VR Oy has no 1435 mm gauge rolling stock.
Rule of the Road
Karhulan - Sunnilan rautatie (a freight line near Kotka)
- Jokioisten Museorautatie: Humppila - Jokioinen (750 mm gauge)
- Nykarleby Jernvag operates a 600 mm gauge line at Kovjoki, along 2 km of the trackbed of the former VR Uusikaarlepyy branch.
- Porvoon Museorautatie is responsible for the 1524 mm gauge line between Olli and Porvoon keskusta, but operates diesel railcars through to Kerava and Helsinki. Höyryraide Ay works steam trains over part of this line, between Porvoon asema and Hinthaara.
There is a listing of Nordic narrow gauge tourist lines at the Scandinavian Railways Society website.
Recent and Future Changes
Upgrading of the Helsinki - Turku line was completed in 1993. The Pönttövuori tunnel, between Jyväskylä and Lievestuore, came into use in 1995 in connection with electrification from Jyväskylä to Pieksämäki. Extensive work has been carried out on the main line between Helsinki and Tampere, a major new alignment at Lempääla coming into use in 2002. Electrification from Oulu to Rovaniemi was completed in December 2004 and from Iisalmi to Oulu in December 2006. The freight line to the Russian border at Vartius is also being electrified.
A high speed line from Kerava to Lahti, a short cut from Helsinki towards the east and St Petersburg, opened to passengers on 3 September 2006.
A new 19 km freight-only line has been opened from Savio, south of Kerava on the main Helsinki-Tampere line, to the harbour at Vuosaari in eastern Helsinki, which started operation in November 2008.
A new 1524 mm gauge line is planned jointly by a Canadian mining company and the Swedish railways to link new iron ore mines at Kaunisvaara in Sweden (about 20 km WNW of Kolari) with the VR line to Kolari. The aim is to have the new line ready by 2013.
The spelling of proper names in Finnish varies according to grammatical case. The name of the Finnish capital is Helsinki, but this appears as Helsingistä (from Helsinki), Helsinkiin (to Helsinki), Helsingin (Helsinki's) and in Helsingissä (in Helsinki), as well as Helsingfors in Swedish. Many towns have names in both Finnish and Swedish, eg: Oulu - Uleåborg, Pori - Bjorneborg, Tampere - Tammerfors etc.
Long distance trains also include special areas to be used by those travelling with dogs or other animals. IC and IC2 trains have compartments for passengers suffering from allergies. All parts of Pendolino trains are stated to be designed for passengers with allergies, except for the carriage where animals are permitted.