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State rail monopoly VR to run Tampere trams from 2021

VR beat out domestic and foreign bids to operate the planned streetcar routes.

Havainnekuva Tampereen ratikasta Hämeensillalla
An artist's rendering of the planned Tampere tram line. Image: Tampereen Raitiotie Oy

The city of Tampere on Wednesday chose state passenger rail provider VR over several other bidders to operate its upcoming tram service.

The deal is projected to be worth some seven million euros per year when the tram service begins. The contract includes a 10-year operating license and oversight of the service's development phase of 2.5 years.

VR's bid beat out other competitors in quality and pricing, the city said. Operating Tampere's trams also means VR will recruit new employees in the city.

"We will be hiring 50-100 workers," said VR commuter traffic director Teemu Sipilä. "Next we'll plan out the recruitment and start hiring conductors for the pilot phase after the summer."

At the moment VR operates commuter and long distance rail traffic. It runs nearly 80 daily train services coming through Tampere, the second busiest train station in Finland. Some 5.25 million people boarded trains in Tampere in 2018, up 10 percent from the previous year.

VR is also involved in competitive bidding for Helsinki's HSL commuter train service operation rights. The bidding ends next year..

Pilot phase set for 2020

The two finalists in the running for the Tampere tram deal aside from VR were the local Länsilinjat Oy and a coalition by Transtech Oy from Kajaani and the France-based Keolis Conseil et Projets.

Earlier dropouts from the tender were the Swedish AB Stockholm's Spårvägar and the Tampere bus company Väinö Paunu Oy.

The Tampere tramline will operate a one-year pilot phase of the service in 2020.

The tram system will be organised in the form of a so-called service alliance, with the city of Tampere ordering the service and local rail company Tampereen Raitiotie Oy acting as its representative with VR.

The parties will collaborate to design and implement the tram service, sharing the profits and risks.

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