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Metro extension derails once more – new start date still open

The firm responsible for building the Helsinki metro's westward expansion has once more deferred commissioning of the project. The metro line has seen significant cost overruns and was supposed to be up and running in August but was postponed to January 2017. However Länsimetro now says it can’t tell when commuters will be able to ride on the expanded service.

Ihmisiä metroasemalla.
Ihmisiä metroasemalla. Image: Jyrki Lyytikkä / Yle

Running at more than 200 million euros over the original budget, the westward expansion of the Helsinki metro has once more grounded to a halt because some systems have not passed compulsory tests.

The new track section was to have been commissioned in August, but was put off to January 2017, due to some reconfigurations of terminals, other infrastructure changes and delayed testing.

However on Monday, Länsimetro, the company driving the project, said that it would not be able to meet the revised schedule because another round of tests had not proceeded as expected. The company added that it would not be able to say when the new section of track would be taken into use.

"It is extremely unfortunate that the commissioning of the metro has been delayed from the previous estimate," said Länsimetro board chair Olli Isotalo.

Isotalo said that the company is currently looking for solutions to ensure that the holdup will be as short as possible without compromising functionality and safety.

Failed fire tests

Although construction on the metro stops is more or less complete, the company is engaged in compliance tests to determine how different systems work together in different emergency situations, such as in the event of a fire or electrical fault.

Aalto University fire tests revealed deficiencies when the equipment did not function as expected. According to Länsimetro, electrical fault tests proceeded as planned.

Aalto University is the site of a pilot station, where compliance tests must first be approved before they can be carried out at other stations.

The company will now have to re-take the tests at the Aalto University station once it has corrected the faults identified.

"The tests revealed deficiencies and flaws which we will begin to correct immediately," said Länsimetro CEO Matti Kokkinen.

Timetable still open

The company said that it won’t be able to provide a precise schedule for commissioning the metro expansion until it has run – and passed – the all-important tests at three stations. It’s still trying to push the tests through at the first of the three stops.

Länsimetro must evaluate a total of 52 systems relating to areas such as property surveillance, access control and fire extinguishing. Each system must first be tested separately before they are jointly verified.

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