Track work in south-central Finland that was to have been completed on Sunday afternoon was delayed, triggering chaos for thousands of travellers returning from Midsummer weekend festivities.
With just 15 minutes' notice, State Railways VR announced that trains between Tampere and Toijala would be replaced by buses beginning at 3pm.
VR also halted sales of all remaining evening train departures.
The reason for the delay was slow renovation work on a railway bridge. The work was supposed to end by 3pm on Sunday, but instead was not expected to be completed until around 1am Monday, said Fintraffic's Rail Traffic Centre. Fintraffic later readjusted its estimated completion time to 6am and then again to 11am.
According to the centre, the delay had "massive effects" on train traffic on the main line. That includes the routes between Oulu and Helsinki and between Tampere and Turku.
Additionally, overnight trains to Lapland from Helsinki that departed on Sunday were up to 13 hours late.
"All trains in the evening will have to be replaced by buses (between Tampere and Toijala). There will definitely be heavy congestion there, because there are a lot of passengers on those trains," said Jari Lindström, traffic manager at the Rail Traffic Centre.
Passengers were warned to expect delays of an hour or more.
"According to VR, all passengers must be prepared for delays of up to an hour," reported Yle journalist Tero Valtanen from Tampere around 4pm.
According to Valtanen, Tampere railway station was filled with people as dozens of buses stood outside. He described passengers as annoyed and indignant as temperatures soared to 30 degrees Celsius or more across southern Finland.
Tickets for most evening trains unavailable
VR has stopped sales of tickets for afternoon and evening train services so that the ticketholders could be accommodated in buses between Toijala and Tampere.
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"You can buy tickets for some departures, for example for night trains. But tickets are not being sold now for most train services," Taina Kuitunen of VR communications told Yle on Sunday afternoon.
According to Kuitunen, the timing makes the situation particularly challenging.
"Due to return traffic from the Midsummer holiday, it may be more difficult to find seats on buses," Kuitunen said.
Kuitunen said that train passengers who have already bought tickets can cancel or reschedule their trips without extra charge.
Delays in Eastern Finland too
A new dual track was introduced between Joutseno and Imatra over the weekend, but according to the Rail Traffic Centre, not all dual track systems had yet been fully completed as of Sunday afternoon.
As a result, delays of about 30–90 minutes were expected for train traffic in Eastern Finland as well.
At around 8:30pm Fintraffic announced that the rail work was completed and that train traffic would begin again.
You can check the current status on VR's 'Train traffic at the moment' (siirryt toiseen palveluun) webpage.
Meanwhile Fintraffic's Road Traffic Centre predicted that holiday weekend return traffic on southern Finland's main roads would remain heavy until Sunday evening.