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Monday's papers: Free transport, same-sex marriage, local elections, luxury in Lapland

A poll by Helsingin Sanomat found that a majority of residents in the capital region would favour tax-financed free public transport. Several papers report that new marriage equality legislation has not created a rush for same-sex marriages. In other items, local election campaigns are taking off and high-end travel in Lapland is worth millions.

Daily newspapers.
Image: E.D.Hawkins / Yle

The majority of residents in the Helsinki region, 59%, back the idea of free public transport, according to a poll published Monday morning by the daily Helsingin Sanomat.

Reacting to the survey, the CEO of Helsinki Regional Transport Suvi Rihtniemi said she does not believe a completely ticket-free system would be possible, at least not for a very long time. One reason she gave is that the present arrangement in which municipalities pay half the costs and users pay the other half works well.

The Estonian capital Tallinn successfully introduced free public transport for residents in 2013. One study carried out last April shows that free public transport there had drawn in 25,000 to 30,000 new residents, increasing the city's tax revenues not only enough to cover costs, but to bring the city a profit of 13 to 18 million euros.

Since the elimination of fees for transport in Tallinn, the use of the public system has increased by over 14% while the use of private cars has fallen by the same proportion.

In Tallinn the sharpest increase in the use of public transport was among 15-19 year-olds, people between the ages of 60 and 74, people living on low incomes, and the unemployed. The Helsingin Sanomat poll found that these same groups in the Helsinki region are heavily in favour of introducing a similar system here.

No rush to wed

So far, the gender neutral marriage law that comes into force at the beginning of March has not generated a large number of bookings for civil marriage ceremonies, reports Turun Sanomat.

Reporting on a survey by Lännen Media, the paper says that registry offices around the country still have plenty of free times available for civil marriage ceremonies even on the first of the month.

The public registrar Kimmo Luojus in Hämeenlinna told reporters that he is surprised that his office does not have a single reservation yet for the first day of same-sex marriage, "Days that are easy to remember sometimes bring in dozens of weddings, even a Friday the 13th brings in some."

The situation is much the same in Oulu, Helsinki, Tampere and Turku where very few reservations have been made for marriage ceremonies at registry offices once same-sex marriages are legal.

Close to 36,000 candidates

The Kuopio-based Savon Sanomat looked at the start of campaigns for this spring’s local elections in which political parties represented in Parliament are hoping to put up over 35,700 candidates seeking around 9,000 seats on municipal councils.

The main election issues, according to Savon Sanomat, will revolve around education, and social and health services.

Interviewing officials from the larger political parties, the paper found that the conservative National Coalition plans to focus on those themes, as well as on issues related to incomes and business policies.

The Centre Party is seeking a mandate to carry through reforms in regional administration and healthcare services. In addition to education, social affairs and health, the Social Democrats are also focusing their campaign on housing and living conditions for the young. The Greens are listing education, environment, poverty and employment. The Finns Party has not yet decided what its main campaign themes will be.

Luxurious Lapland

The Metro freesheet today headlines the growth in exclusive, high-end holidays for the wealthy in Finnish Lapland, who "fly in on private jets and demand to see the Northern Lights".

Tourism operators who provide special tailored holiday packages for up to 30,000 euros per person told the paper that this segment of the business nowadays is worth 4-5 million euros a year.

While operators are bound by confidentiality not to reveal the identities of these visitors, Ilkka Länkinen of the Pro Santa marketing group he told Metro that they include the leaders of foreign states, professional athletes, important clients of large car manufactures and leaders of Finnish business and industry.

Länkinen says that operators are willing to entertain any request for Lapland adventures that the law allows. Some of these have included organizing flights above overcast skies to provide a view of the Northern lights and briefly closing the Ranua zoo to the general public to allow visitors private time to view the exotic Arctic animals.

A few requests have been beyond the powers of even luxury tour operators, such as one from a guest who wanted an ice breaker brought to Rovaniemi for a river cruise, and a group who asked one early November to have an entire lake frozen so they could use it for dog sledding.

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