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STT: Ministry doubts private funding for fast trains to Turku

A plan to increase capacity and reduce journey times is unlikely to attract private investors, says the Transport Ministry.

Turkuun lähdössä oleva juna Helsingin Rautatieasemalla 7. marraskuuta
A train leaving Helsinki for Turku. Image: Jussi Nukari / Lehtikuva

Finnish civil servants believe a plan to provide a rail service halving journey times between Helsinki and Turku could be difficult to fund, reports the STT news agency.

According to STT’s reporting, officials believe the company set up to fund, plan and realise the project will find it difficult to attract private investment.

The plan currently entails funding from central government, municipalities along the route, and private investors. If that is impossible, public bodies would shoulder the burden for funding the project.

The project to halve journey times between Tampere and Helsinki, on the other hand, is estimated by officials as having much better prospects for external funding.

Both projects were set in train by the previous government. This year Antti Rinne’s administration announced it would establish project companies in order to secure funding from external investors.

"Similar" projects

The news has not gone down well in the Turku region.

“I am quite shocked at the claim that our project is not profitable,” said Janne Virtanen of the Regional Council of Southwest Finland.

“I’m waiting to hear the argumentation, what is this claim based on?”

Virtanen claims it is impossible to state at this stage if one project might get more funding than another because there hasn't yet been any effort to find investors.

“The projects are surely quite similar from a private investor’s point of view,” said Virtanen. “Neither project has had extensive planning yet, and the project companies have not yet been established, so it’s quite a big claim that one is more interesting [to investors] than the other.”

The Tampere-Helsinki link is expected to attract some 6.5 million passengers a year. The ministry’s estimate for the Turku link is 1.6 million passengers annually.

Municipalities in the region have criticised that estimate, preferring an earlier number from the Finnish Transport Infrastructure Agency of 2.5 million journeys per year.

Orpo's baby

National Coalition leader, Turku MP and former Finance Minister Petteri Orpo was a key advocate of the Turku project until he left office earlier this year.

The Finance Ministry had long been sceptical of the plan, but Orpo pushed it through alongside the Tampere-Helsinki improvements.

At the same time, according to STT, officials at the Transport Ministry were telling the government that the numbers did not add up for the Turku project’s plan to bring in investment and that it would need to be a purely publicly-funded project.

At the time Orpo claimed that the mixed-financing model would ensure the Turku link was built much quicker than it would be if left to public funding alone.

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