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.
Actual Train Times
- A map showing the location of each train
- A list of trains This appears to be available only in Finnish
The timetable PDFs for long distance and regional services are available only in the Finnish version of the website.
Juna-aikataulut : "Kaukoliikenteen aikataulut" gives a combined PDF of all long distance and regional services, using their long-established table numbers (as used in EGTRE), whereas "Asemakohtaiset aikataulut" 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 (All-Europe Edition) by M.G. Ball.
- European Railway Atlas (Regional Series - Nordic) by M.G. Ball.
- Railways are depicted well in GT Tiekartasto Suomi-Finland, a road atlas with maps at 1:200,000 (1:400,000 north of Oulo).
- Jussi Mäkinen's Järnvägshistorisk generalkarta över Finland, a railway map showing both current and historical lines in Finland, is available from Stenvalls bookshop and also the Railway Museum in Hyvinkää.
- 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. 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.
Within the Helsinki suburban area, tickets must be purchased (or held) before boarding trains. Outside this 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. Cash is no longer accepted as payment; long distance tickets can be purchased from train conductors and railbus vending machines only with payment cards. On some trains, carriages in which tickets cannot be purchased are indicated by prominent signs on the outside. A penalty fare system operates - a substantial penalty is charged in addition to the fare if a passenger is 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. This was renamed and reorganised on 1 January 2019 into Väylävirasto, the Finnish Transport Infrastructure Agency.
Railway network maps. This gives a list of Network Statements by year. Select the year, which brings up a list of documents in Finnish. Click on the union jack icon to obtain the documents in English.
1524 mm. The Minister of Transport has described as ‘unreasonable’ the European Commission proposal to require the use of 1435 mm gauge throughout the TEN-T rail network, arguing that Finland is a special case.
Other systems: Helsinki Metro - 1522 mm; Helsinki trams and Jokeri Light Rail - 1000 mm; Tampere Tramway - 1435 mm.
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.
Rail cycling is available between Pori and Kankaanpää.
Helsinki Region Transport is owned jointly by several local authoritties in the Helsinki area.
A 7km extension from Matinkylä to Kivenlahti was opened on 3 December 2022.
Helsinki Region Transport Trams.
Test running was due to start in November 2022 at the eastern end of the 25 km Raide-Jokeri (Jokeri Light Rail) system, which runs from Itäkeskus, in eastern Helsinki, to Keilaniemi, in Espoo.
Track plans for the metro, tram system and the Jokeri Light Rail system are available on the Gleisplanweb site.
The 18 km first phase of the standard gauge Tampere Tramway opened on schedule on 9 August 2021.
Recent and Future Changes
Finland has objected strongly to the European Commission proposal in July 2022 that new lines should be built to the standard gauge of 1435mm, and key routes of other gauges converted.
On 6 April 2022 the VR Group board decided to stop all freight traffic between Finland and Russia. It began the process of terminating its cross-border freight contracts, with traffic expected to cease completely by the end of 2022 at the latest. However, it then decided to continue transporting commodities not subject to EU sanctions against Russia.
The Allegro service between Helsinki and St Petersburg was discontinued from 28 March 2022 as part of the sanctions against Russia. The Tolstoi overnight train between Helsinki and Moskva was suspended by RZD on an unknown date as a result of the Covid pandemic. In August 2022, VR Group decided to write off all Allegro trains and their spare parts. They do not plan to resume their use.
The Network Statement states that the Seinäjoki - Kaskinen line will be maintained only until 31 December 2022, so it will presumably close after this date.
The government and relevant local authorities have established companies to plan two major projects and granted €40m to cover the costs of planning:
- Work on the design of the Turun Tunnin Juna Oy (One Hour Train) project, a 95km high speed line between Espoo (west of Helsinki) and Salo (east of Turku) and double-tracking Salo – Turku, was approved in December 2020. In October 2021 responsibility was transferred from the national infrastructure agency to the dedicated project body. Planning is scheduled to be complete by 2023, with the cost split between the national and local governments. The line is due to open in early 2030.
- Finnish Rail will develop plans for new alignments and additional tracks to provide a 1 hour journey time between Helsinki and Tampere via Helsinki Airport. This appears to be an enhancement to the 2019 project to develop a Riihimäki – Tampere high speed line.
Four sections of line were scheduled to close from 27 March 2016 but 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:
|11||Orivesi - Haapamäki|
|11||Jyväskylä – Haapamäki – Seinäjoki|
|14||Joensuu – Nurmes|
|17||Joensuu - Viinijärvi - Varkaus|
A 14 km westward extension of the Helsinki Metro to Matinkylä opened on 18 November 2017 (see their webpage). A Further westward extension to Kivenlahti is under construction with planned opening in 2023.
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.
The FinEst Link project to build a 92 km under-sea tunnel between Helsinki and Tallinn, originally projected to open in December 2024, has been delayed by up to six years after the Helsinki-Uusimaa regional council voted to route the line under the capital rather than direct to Helsinki Airport.
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.
The Kemijärvi - Kelloselka line closed after the last freight ran on 28 July 2010.
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.