On Monday Helsinki city leaders voted unanimously to support the planned construction of a new light rail service from Itäkeskus in eastern Helsinki to Keilaniemi in Espoo.
Espoo municipal leaders also gave the proposal their blessing, however the decision was not unanimous as the vote was decided 11 – 3.
In spite of strong support by city leaders, the proposal must still get a green light from both city councils by the end of June. If both sides approve it, officials will begin drawing up more detailed plans to execute the project.
Dubbed Raide-Jokeri, the express railway will traverse the capital region from east to west and will replace the existing 550 bus service.
The plan calls for the cities to spend 275 million euros on the track infrastructure, with Helsinki footing 124 million euros of the bill, while Espoo will pay 67 million and the state will cover 30 million euros. The estimate includes the cost of constructing the tram line and modifications to road infrastructure in Helsinki and Espoo, but it does not include any other costs.
The entire project, including route mechanisms and new tram cars, is projected to cost a total of 459 million euros, of which the state will pay 84 million euros altogether. As a result Helsinki will contribute a total of 278 million euros and Espoo roughly 97 million.
Up to 90,000 daily users
Officials say they hope to begin construction of the express light rail line in 2017. The track will stretch for about 25 kilometres, 16 of which will be located in Helsinki and 9 in Espoo. The Raide-Jokeri will clock average speeds of 25 kilometres an hour; regular trams travel at up to 15 kilometres an hour.
The transverse rail connection will facilitate the development of new housing stock along the length of the line. City planners are already considering zoning plans to add more than 6,000 new homes in Helsinki and 4,000 in Espoo in the next few years.
Officials estimate that by the year 2025, the express line will serve some 88,000 commuters on weekdays. The current 550 bus line moves roughly 30,000 travellers daily.