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Friday's papers: Level crossing tragedy, Finns fighting ISIS, and daytime saving time on the block

Friday's newspapers include stories on Thursday's deadly crash in south-west Finland, an interview with Finns involved in the fight to liberate Raqqa from the so-called Islamic State, and progress towards abolition of summer time.

Torstaiaamuna 26.10.2017 puolustusvoimien ajoneuvo ja henkilöjuna kolaroivat tässä vartioimattomassa tasoristeyksessä.
Level crossings are in the spotlight in Finland after four people died in a collision with a train on Thursday. Image: Vesa Marttinen

Finland was shocked on Thursday by a tragic collision between a military personnel carrier and a train just south of Ekenäs. Three conscripts and one passenger on the train died in the smash, plunging the nation into mourning. Defence Minister Jussi Niinistö and President Sauli Niinistö sent their condolences, with Niinistö describing it as his worst day in the job.

Ilta-sanomat reports that the driver of the military vehicle is suspected by police of negligence, with the specific offences to be clarified once they have managed to interview witnesses.

Suomen Kuvalehti, meanwhile, looks at the prevalence of level crossings in Finland. There are a total of 2,778 level crossings in Finland, and 2,102 of them have no lights or warnings--let alone a boom blocking the road--to alert drivers to the arrival of oncoming trains. In Raseborg the angle of the road means that drivers have to look backwards to check the line is clear, and in poor visibility that can be problematic.

Between 2012 and 2016 there were 183 accidents on level crossings, according to the magazine.

SK reports that while the removal of level crossings is a long-term goal of the transport authorities, there is no separate funding to achieve the target. Any removals that do happen are a by-product of other projects, for instance in the case of the track between Seinäjoki and Oulu.

ISIS battle

The fight against ISIS has progressed in recent months, and foreign volunteer fighters have been a small but significant part of the battle. Finns have been involved, and Helsingin Sanomat carries an interview with two of them on Friday.

The pair are fighting with the Kurdish YPG units, like most international volunteers, and they recently left the newly-liberated Raqqa. Bagok Kullervo and Ariel Shervan (not their real names) say their 25-strong unit emerged largely unscathed from the battle for Raqqa, with just three wounded and no soldiers killed.

The Finns explain that, during the battle to seize the ISIS capital, they were saved by the unlikely figure of a cat crossing the street to greet ISIS fighters who were waiting to ambush the YPG soldiers.

ISIS is a busted flush, according to Kullervo and Shervan, with most of the previously dominant jihadi group fleeing the advance of anti-ISIS forces rather than staying to fight. Kullervo says he misses Finland a little, and if he does return soon he'll take it easy for a while before completing his studies in literature.

Clock advance

Hesari also reported on the advance of a citizens' initiative to end daylight saving time, which has now taken another step towards becoming law. Some 70,000 people signed the petition, and now parliament's committee on transport and communications has agreed with their stance.

The committee does sound a note of caution however, as the European Union currently mandates the switch to daylight saving time. The goal, according to the committee, should be for an EU-wide decision.

Transport Minister Anne Berner said back in June that it was unlikely the EU Commission would grant Finland an opt-out on DST.

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