The Ministry of Transport and Communications has said that it has begun negotiations with municipalities and other parties to set up project companies for a one-hour train to Turku in the southwest as well as a line to Tampere, also known as the Finland line, in the south.
At a press conference on Wednesday, the Minister of Transport, Sanna Marin, disclosed plans to fund companies that will develop rapid railway links. The primary task and function of these companies will be planning and financing railway projects until their construction is completed.
The Ministerial Committee on Economic Policy discussed the matter on Wednesday. The new companies are being funded by capital that the previous government had allocated for the railway project company Nordic Railways Ltd. The projects require an additional 15 million euros or so, which will be taken from the budget.
In the initial stages, the state would own a stake of at least 51 percent in the companies, while other shareholders would hold a 49 percent stake.
Marin: Current government won't have time to decide on rapid railway links
Marin stressed that the investments are large and that designing the new, rapid railway links will take six to eight years, with the lines likely to begin operating in the 2030's at the earliest.
Stakeholder discussions will also examine whether the new links should take a quick, direct route from the airport to Tampere or be based closer to the main railway line.
According to Marin, the government is applying for EU funding for the planning stage of the one-hour train to Turku and the main rapid railway link projects. Marin stated that the current government will probably not be able to make decisions about the construction of the new, rapid railway links during its term, as the project designs are still incomplete.
She said that the government could still decide on certain aspects, such as the construction of the new railway line in Espoo, which will travel within the Southern city from Leppävaara to Kauklahti. The new companies will not be involved in plans for the city line, as the project is already at an advanced stage.
The Ministry of Transport also intends to introduce smaller projects related to making rail travel faster at the budget session. These include improving and reducing the travel time of railway links from Seinäjoki (South Ostrobothnia) to Vaasa (west), Tampere to Jyväskyla (west) and Tampere to Pori (west).
Railway company VR has previously said that it is prioritising speeding up the railway links from Seinäjöki to Vaasa and Tampere to Jyväskylä. The company includes these links in their list of top projects.
Focus on links to Turku, Tampere and eastern Finland
New rapid railway links have been the subject of much debate for the past year. New connections would include faster and more direct links from Helsinki to Turku, Helsinki to the airport in Vantaa via Tampere and Helsinki to eastern Finland.
The projects are in different stages of planning. The link to Turku is already underway, while other projects like the Espoo city line could begin construction soon.
A new direct connection from the airport in Vantaa to Tampere is potentially in the works. There has also been extensive research on how to increase the speed of the current links.
The price tag for every brand-new, rapid railway link is in the billion euro range, and it is challenging to find funding for mega projects.