Finland - General Information
National Railway System
National Railway Operator
VR Oy (VR AB). VR was the official abbreviation of Valtionrautatiet (= State railway), but is now the company's full 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 shown on all new vehicles and is slowly being added onto existing VR rolling stock which was previously not numbered according to the UIC system.
Long-distance timetables. For a journey now use “Timetable Search” at the top of the page; for a journey on a specific day/time use “Search Timetables” at the bottom of the page.
Long-distance timetables : "Timetables date-date" gives a combined PDF of all long distance and regional services, using their long-established table numbers (as used in EGTRE), whereas "Timetables by route" leads to individual PDFs from a drop-down list of various routes or combinations of routes (table numbers are not given). A diagrammatic route map is available for the long distance and regional network.
Helsinki suburban timetables : "Route timetables" leads to PDFs of suburban routes from a drop-down list, whereas "Station timetables" leads to PDFs of station departure lists from a drop-down list. A diagrammatic route map is available for the Helsinki suburban network.
Working timetable information, in graphical format, is available through the Julia website - go to this page, select the required route section from the drop-down box, insert required date, and press the green Hae button.
Pocket size timetables for other than suburban services are available at main stations but printed system timetables are no longer published.
- European Railway Atlas: Scandinavia and Eastern Europe by M.G. Ball (1993) (ISBN 0-7110-2072-4)
- European Railway Atlas by M.G. Ball (2008 onwards)
- Railways are depicted well in GT Tiekartasto Suomi-Finland, a road atlas with maps at 1:200,000 (1:400,000 north of Oulo).
- Thorsten Büker's Map of Finland
Very few stations have open ticket offices, the majority rely totally on ticket machines which have an English option and are straightforward to use. When purchasing for InterCity and Pendolino journeys, the machines automatically include a Reservation in the price and allocated seat details are displayed on the ticket. Outwith the Helsinki suburban area, tickets can also be bought on the train: on Regional trains on rural lines from on board machines where there are no guards, or on main lines from on board staff. However, such purchases will be at a slightly higher fare than from station machines. On some trains, carriages in which tickets cannot be purchased are indicated by prominent signs on the outside. In the Helsinki suburban area, tickets must be purchased (or held) before boarding trains. Advance on-line purchases offer substantial discounts for printed or phone-based tickets - again including seat Reservations. It is not compulsory to have a reserved seat to board an IC or Pendelino train (for example, if using an InterRail ticket) but as seats are not physically marked as reserved you may be asked to move by a passenger holding a reservation.
A penalty fare system operates - a penalty [€80 in 2017] is charged in addition to the fare if inspected and found without a valid ticket.
Ratahallintokeskus (in Swedish, Banförvaltningscentralen) was responsible for infrastructure but in early 2010 was merged with the Roads agency into Liikennevirasto (in Swedish, Trafikverket), the Finnish Transport Agency.
1524 mm. There are 1435 mm gauge lines at Turku, Uusikaupunki, and Hanko, which were used in connection with the train ferries there. None of these lines is now in operation as the last train ferry, at Turku, closed 31 December 2011.
Rule of the Road
Right hand running but most of the network is single-tracked, while the Helsinki Airport Loop is left hand running. Double track lines are mostly equipped with bidirectional signalling. Unusually, on four-track lines the directions are ↓↑↑↓ - i.e. the right hand pair of lines is left-handed. From Pasila to Kerava the tracks are southbound fast; northbound fast; northbound local; southbound local. Similarly on the coast line (Pasila - Leppävaara): eastbound fast; westbound fast; westbound local; eastbound local.
The Network Statement (see Network Statement) gives overall distances for each section (Appendix 1) and detailed distances for each station from Helsinki in alphabetical order (Appendix 2).
Distances for current operational locations are shown on the graphical working timetables available through the Julia website - go to this page, select the required route from the drop down list (the date box is immaterial) and press the green Hae button. The milepost distances (in km) are down the left axis of the graph. Bear in mind that - in consequence of route relocations around the system - there are various short and long kms so the milepost distance may not represent today's actual travel distance.
Karhulan - Sunnilan rautatie (a freight line near Kotka)
- Jokioisten Museorautatie: Humppila - Jokioinen (750 mm gauge)
- Nykarleby Jernvag: from Kovjoki, along 2 km of the trackbed of the former VR Uusikaarlepyy branch (600 mm gauge).
- Porvoon Museorautatie is responsible for the line between Olli and Porvoo; they operate diesel railcar excursions through from Kerava and Helsinki on summer weekends (1524 mm gauge).
- Steamrail – Höyryraide Ay operate occasional steam excursions from Nurmes (1524 mm gauge).
An annual listing is produced by Resiina magazine and the Heritage Railway Association of Finland, and available at the Heritage Trains web page. This list includes specials operated over other VR lines in summer by preservation societies.
There is a listing of Finnish railway museums at the Scandinavian Railways Society website.
Rail cycling is available between Pori and Kankaanpää.
A track plan for the Helsinki tram system is available on the Gleisplanweb site.
Recent and Future Changes
In March 2018 Finland and Norway chose Rovaniemi to Kirkenes (near the Russian border) as the best route for the potential Arctic rail link from northern Finland to the Barents Sea coast. Further studies will now take place, to be completed in December 2018.
Following four sections of line were scheduled to close from 27 March 2016. However, the Ministry of Transport postponed the closures pending decisions on the possible opening up the passenger rail sector to competition, so the lines remain open until further notice (they are shown in the timetables operating until at least June 2018):
|11||Orivesi - Haapamäki|
|14||Joensuu – Nurmes|
|17 (part)||Joensuu - Viinijärvi - Varkaus|
|17 (part)||Jyväskylä – Haapamäki – Seinäjoki|
The line north from Seinojaki to Oulu is being doubled with parts in use by 2017. The freight line to the Russian border at Vartius and others to Pietarsaar and Talvivaara have been electrified, and Jyväskylä - Äänekoski was being electrified in 2016.
Following the signing in January 2016 of the Finnish-Estonian Transport Link memorandum of understanding, two consortia were appointed in February 2017 to study the feasibility of the FinEst Link proposal to build a 92 km under-sea tunnel between Helsinki and Tallinn. The Feasibility Study – Final report was presented in February 2018, but it is not clear what the next step will be.
The 18 km Helsinki Kehärata Ring Line (Vantaankoski - Helsinki-Vantaa Airport - Hiekkaharju) opened on 1 July 2015 (see routes I and P on schematic route plan).
The last train ferry connecting with Sweden, between Turku and Stockholm Värtan, closed on 31 December 2011.
Allegro high-speed trainsets were introduced in December 2010 on the two daytime services between Helsinki and St Petersburg, cutting the journey time from six to 3½ hours.
A new 19 km freight-only line from Savio, south of Kerava on the main Helsinki-Tampere line, to the harbour at Vuosaari in eastern Helsinki, started operating in November 2008.
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.
Electrification from Oulu to Rovaniemi was completed in December 2004 and from Iisalmi to Oulu in December 2006.
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.
The Pönttövuori tunnel, between Jyväskylä and Lievestuore, came into use in 1995 in connection with electrification from Jyväskylä to Pieksämäki.
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
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.