A proposed rapid rail link between the cities of Turku and Helsinki is one of southern Finland’s most crucial transport solutions, say the country’s chambers of commerce. The business groups are calling for completion of the so-called One Hour Train to be written into the programme of the next government, which is to take office in the spring.
The chambers argue that the high-speed link between two of Finland’s biggest urban areas – which are some 160 km apart – would be an important step toward cutting the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions. At present the rail link between the two cities is rather indirect, making road or air links more appealing to many travellers.
The plan calls for a new direct rail line to be built between Espoo and Salo via Lohja, which would be one of the first entirely new railway lines to be built in Finland in a century.
Downtown to downtown in 75 minutes
The envisaged One Hour Train would eventually cut the travel time between Turku’s Kupittaa and Helsinki’s Pasila stations to an hour. That trip now takes just over an hour and a half by Pendolino or closer to two hours by other trains.
Travel time between the two cities’ central stations now ranges between an hour and three quarters and just over two hours. That would be cut to around 75 minutes.
Not surprisingly, the Turku Chamber of Commerce is particularly eager to see investment to finish the planned train route. It notes that planning of the One Hour Train is quite advanced, and that the project has been selected as part of the EU’s Trans-European Transport (TEN-T) Networks, making it eligible for significant EU funding. The state has already earmarked 40 million euros for planning costs.
"Since a rapid rail link is not available, a private car is now a faster and more practical alternative for many people when travelling between Turku and Helsinki. The One Hour Train is one of the quickest actions that the government could carry out in climate terms,” says Kaisa Leiwo, head of the Turku Chamber of Commerce.
Essential link for "growth triangle"
Leiwo argues that the One Hour Train is an essential link for Finland’s "growth triangle" encompassing the southern urban regions of Helsinki, Turku and Tampere.
"We now need courage and boldness to make the major rail investments that are essential to guarantee the mobility of those with know-how and to develop all of Finland’s competitiveness in the future,” Leiwo says.
If the new cabinet commits to build the railway next spring, it could be up and running in the late 2020s. The new coalition government is to lay out its agenda following elections in April.
Turku, Finland’s former capital in the south-west, has a population of some 188,000. It is a major port for cargo and passenger traffic to Sweden, Germany and other Baltic rim countries.