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Bitter cold snarls mass transit

A sudden plunge in temperature has played havoc with bus and train transport, particularly in the capital region. Frost damage to rails in Oulunkylä has had repercussions on mainline northbound long-distance trains as well.

Pikajuna kiitää Sievin Kukonkylän kohdalla etelään Sikanevan ylikulkusillan kohdalla Sievissä 16.2.2016.
Track problems in Helsinki have slowed trains through much of the country. Image: Antti Pylväs / Yle

Mass transport has been plagued by problems on Thursday morning, particularly in the Helsinki region. Helsinki Region Transport (HSL) says trains are running behind schedule and many busses are out of service, both due to technical problems linked to a cold snap that has brought temperatures of around -20 degrees Celsius in the south and -40 in the north.

Around 9.30 am, VR State Railways communications chief Mika Heijari told Yle that some trains were halted due to track problems.

Earlier on Thursday morning, the Finnish Transport Agency had told Yle that rail service was back to normal after track damage blamed on the bitter cold. There were severe delays on Wednesday evening and overnight following a rapid plunge in temperatures.

New cold record, new transport problems

Track damage in Helsinki’s Oulunkylä neighbourhood caused knock-on problems throughout the national rail system, said the agency. Long-haul northbound trains pass through that junction.

Repair work began after 10.30 pm and was completed shortly before 3 am.

The agency says there four tracks at the damage site, with breakage discovered in two of them. The small fractures in welding joints were likely caused by the drop of temperature to around -20 from around +5 a few days earlier.

Early Thursday a new cold record for this winter of -41.7 degrees Celsius was set in Muonio, Finnish Lapland. It was nearly as chilly in the village of Naruska in Salla, where thermometers showed -41.4. On Thursday night temperatures are expected to fall further in southern and central Finland as well.

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