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State rail firm VR invests 250 million in faster trains

The new equipment is to transport intercity passengers from 2024.

VR's current trains are becoming obsolete. Image: Derrick Frilund / Yle

Finland's state-owned rail firm VR announced that it will devote some 250 million euros to improving the speed and quality of its trains.

The new equipment will replace the 34 Sm2 models currently being used in Southern Finland in intercity rail traffic.

The new trains will run services on the following routes: Helsinki–Kouvola, Helsinki–Tampere, Helsinki–Riihimäki, Riihimäki–Lahti, Lahti–Kouvola and Kouvola–Kotka.

VR said that their old locomotives have come to the end of their lifespan and no longer fulfill the requirements of modern rail equipment.

"Moving around in these older units is impeded, for instance people in wheelchairs cannot come aboard on their own," said VR communications chief Tatu Tuominen. "They also lack air conditioning."

High speed

The new trains being purchased will also be far faster than the current engines.

"The maximum speed of the old intercity trains is 120 km per hour, while other commuter units can go up to 160 km per hour. These new models have a top speed of around 200 km per hour," Tuominen noted.

As VR sees it, the faster their trains can travel, the longer the journeys can be. The incoming trains may also be double-decker.

"The upstairs cars could be reserved for working on the go," said Tuominen.

The company will open bidding for a supplier next year. VR said that the old vehicles will be phased out completely by 2026.

Tuominen compares VR's grand investment to their other improvements, such as renewing their restaurant cars and Extra Class units; these developments together have cost the former monopoly about 230 million euros in the last few years.

A proposed rapid rail link between the southern cities of Turku and Helsinki is one of southern Finland's most crucial transport solutions in terms of both climate change and regional accessibility, according to the country's chambers of commerce.

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