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Monday's papers: VR's ticketless conductors, Latvian libations, lake recovery, grating grans

Monday's newspaper coverage has a distinctly downtime summer feel, with dailies focusing on puzzling changes to domestic rail travel, Latvia emerging as a new travel destination for booze buffs, brighter prospects for lakeside holidaymakers and the often-inevitable clashes that occur between parents and grandparents.

Kimmo Huuhtanen
See that conductor? From 19 June he won't be selling you tickets on the train. But he will meet and otherwise serve more passengers, hopefully. Image: Antti Haanpää / Yle

With the exception of early-morning online coverage of a van ploughing into pedestrians near a London mosque, Monday's papers offer more laid-back pre-Midsummer fare.

Summer is a time for going places and tabloid daily Ilta-Sanomat reports on commuter confusion over a new strategy adopted by national rail carrier, VR. According to the company, starting Monday 19 June, conductors will no longer sell train tickets, but will focus on otherwise serving passengers. VR’s latest move prompted a tweetstorm from commuters, some of which the paper reproduces.

"According to VR’s logic, ticket sales are not a service. The customer is wrong," tweeted one irate Twitter user.

"If you take care of the kids, then I can read the newspaper in peace, Thank you VR," quipped another.

In VR’s new service model, conductors will use a buddy system to move through all train carriages. Previously, they could only be found in carriages permitting ticket sales. Whereas in the past they encountered about 200 passengers, from Monday, they’ll come face to face with some 800.

While they will no longer sell tickets, they’ll advise and guide commuters on the train, for example providing information about connections. They will also inspect tickets and in the early stages, provide information about where passengers can purchase tickets — from Monday that will be via a VR app or from its updated online store. Members of the public travelling on local commuter trains will be able to buy tickets from customer service representatives in Helsinki, Tikkurila, Tampere, Lahti, Järvenpää and Hyvinkää as well as from roughly 14 R-kioski outlets. The G-train running between Rihimäki and Lahti will continue to sell tickets until ticket machines are installed in those areas.

New booze buzz over Latvia

Tabloid daily Iltalehti observes that Finns seem to have already pinpointed a new destination for booze cruises – Latvia. Since neighbouring Estonia is set to increase the tax on mild alcoholic beverages from July, Finns have now set their sights on Latvia — specifically on the city of Valka on the Estonian-Latvian border.

According to IL, the best-known alcohol store in Valka is Alko1000 and the majority of patrons are from Finland. The store knows its customers well -- it focuses its marketing spend on Finnish products. For example, a 24-can case of A. Le Coq Premium Export 5.2-percent beer retails for nine euros in Valka, compared to around 15 euros in Estonia. The beer comes from a brewery of the same name and is a member of the Finnish Olvi group. The daily writes that the price difference for hard liquor also runs dozens of percentages, making Latvia the new preferred destination for tipplers looking for a bargain.

Lake restoration: It's all about the money

In addition to its coverage of the fluid political scene, in a nod to the approaching Midsummer holiday weekend, Helsingin Sanomat devotes much of its domestic pages to matters close to home and hearth.

The paper takes a look at the improving state of Finnish lakes, which were overrun with algae in the 70s, but many of which have recovered to the point where holidaymakers can confidently take a summer dip, or even eat the spoils of vacation fishing trips.

HS uses Tuusulanjärvi as a case study to show how money is the ultimate weapon used in the fight against encroaching algal growths. The growths were stimulated by the dumping of improperly treated waste water, a practice that ended in 1979. In 1997, nearly 20 years later, a grass roots movement gathered support from 9,000 petitioners calling for action to restore the body of water. Popular pressure prompted city leaders to begin work on salvaging the lake in 1999. But it was money that did the trick, HS reports. Since 1999, officials have spent some six million euros on treatment to curb algal growth.

"The lake is an example that if people want to restore a lake, you have to invest in it. Unfortunately other lakes don’t get anything, although they too deserve money," said Jaana Hietala, the coordinator of the Keski-Uusimaa water conservation municipal federation.

Clan wars

Outside of Christmas, summer is ideal for spending time with the family, including the extended clan. It’s also a time when relations between parents and grandparents tend to fray, HS reports in another pre-Midsummer piece. The daily riffs off research published by Turku University and the Family Federation of Finland indicating that a majority of parents squabble with their own parents or their in-laws.

HS reviewed the open responses provided by parents in the study and found that many parents feel that their children’s grandparents don’t respect their independence. Their grievances focused on matters such as grandparents interfering in family size, children’s names, family sleeping habits, parenting choices, spoiling kids with excessive treats and toys, even a family’s choice of holiday location – and the perennial plaint, grandparents who always know better than parents.

With 15 years as a health centre psychologist under her belt, Maarit Pihlman acknowledged that grandparents sometimes cross boundaries set by their children and sons- and daughters-in-law. She stressed that seniors should always remember good manners and respect for their children’s families.

"Grandparents usually mean well but it is incredibly intrusive to someone else’s privacy to begin cleaning their house without permission, for example," she pointed out.

She counselled moms and dads to agree on a joint strategy in advance to deal with overly well-intentioned grandparents. Above all, feedback should always be provided calmly, she advised.

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