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Monday’s papers: Blacklisted MEP criticises FM’s downplay of list, 36 rapes on Baltic cruise ships last year, summer brings coach, rail price wars

Finnish newspapers continue coverage about the Russian travel ban list of European parliament members, a documentary news show reports there were 36 rapes on Baltic cruises last year. Now that the summer holiday has arrived, a budget coach company has caused bus and train ticket prices to drop this summer.

VR Pendolino train, file photo. Image: Soile Laaksonen / VR Group

Member of the European Parliament Heidi Hautala, who was the only Finn on a recently-published list of MEPs banned by Russia from entering the country, has criticised Finnish Foreign Minister Timo Soini’s nonchalance about the issue, Helsingin Sanomat (siirryt toiseen palveluun) reports. In a brief about comments made on MTV Uutiset, the newspaper quoted Hautala as saying the blacklist of 89 names  of banned EU citizens is more serious than Soini said.

On Saturday, Soini wrote in his blog that the blacklist travel ban on the MEPs was being “over dramaticized.” Reacting to the newly-appointed foreign minister’s comments, Hautala told MTV Uutiset that she thinks the EU countries with citizens on the list will take up the issue bilaterally with Russia.

“I would be very surprised if Finland doesn’t have intention [to react],” Hautala was quoted by HS saying, “as I unfortunately understand Foreign Minister Soini’s comments [to mean].”

Documentary: cruise ship violence “exponential” growth

There were 36 rapes reported on Baltic cruise ships last year according to the Swedish TV4 documentary news programme Kalla Fakta, Hufvudtadsbladet (€) (siirryt toiseen palveluun) reported.

Using hidden cameras, the news programme documented violent, dangerous, drunken behaviour by ship passengers and reported a lack of proper oversight by ship personnel. The documentary investigated three cruise ships: Viking Line Cinderella, Tallink Silja Galaxy and Birkaline Birka, HBL wrote.

Aside from the number of rape cases which were officially reported, Kalla Fakta’s hidden cameras revealed an atmosphere of violent and drunken behaviour by passengers and a casual indifference towards much of the behaviour by cruise ship staff, the paper wrote.

The programme revealed hidden camera footage of staff ignoring young women so intoxicated they were nearly unconscious and drunken parents taking a two-year-old onto a crowded nightclub dance floor. Kalla Fakta characterised the problem as being endemic, something the cruise companies deny, the paper wrote.

While Kalla Fakta reports that violence has grown “exponentially” on the ships, the numbers of rapes is more or less in line with past years. In 2008 there were 43 reported rapes and fell steadily until 2011 when that figure began to creep up again.  The paper reports that hard numbers on specific violence on the ships are difficult to reach, and make it hard to reach conclusions.

But as a Stockholm police officer told Kalla Fakta, even “one rape is too many,” the paper reported.

Budget bus and train price wars

Now that school’s out it’s officially summer holiday time, despite the cold and wet weather, it the high season for long distance bus and rail companies. The influx of budget bus lines like Onnibus in recent years has helped to bring down prices for older bus companies and the national rail system VR. Now, Ilta-Sanomat (siirryt toiseen palveluun) reports, Onnibus isn’t always necessarily the cheapest alternative.

Onnibus, the large, red double-decker coaches offering very cheap fares, has shaken up the domestic long distance travel industry. Even national rail system VR is bringing down the price of advance-purchase tickets that match – or sometimes even beat – that of Onnibus, the paper explained.

While it’s usually exponentially more expensive to travel by train these days, VR has also gotten into the deep-discount ticket game. A normal fare train ticket from Helsinki to Joensuu, for example, costs nearly 78 euros. The same route on Onnibus costs 15 euros and the older bus company Matkahuolto offers prices as low as 19 euros, the paper wrote.

But when bought in advance, prices during VR’s summertime campaign can be even cheaper than taking a bus. One of these train tickets, bought in advance, from Helsinki to Jyväskylä costs a mere five euros while Onnibus’ best price was seven euros.

Taking the bus, especially when buying tickets right before departure, is almost always cheaper than the train, according to the paper’s price comparison listing of the three companies.