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Transport minister says private money needed for high-speed rail upgrades

Transport Minister Anne Berner says high-speed rail links between Helsinki, Turku and Tampere will not come cheap, and the state alone cannot foot the bill.

Pendolino junaradalla.
Image: Soile Laaksonen / VR Group

A new report has determined that one-hour train routes connecting Helsinki with Turku and Tampere would provide a major transportation boost and would help Finland meet carbon emissions targets.

The report, prepared by planning and consultation group Ramboll, also recommends that Finland should begin working on development of both of the high-speed routes as part of its 12-year infrastructure plan.

The report states that Helsinki's proximity to Finland's other two larger southern cities of Turku and Tampere presents a unique opportunity to develop a three-point labour market area that could generate international interest. The report notes that Finland's continuing urbanisation has increased the need for mobility between the three cities.

A functioning railway connection would attract people and businesses into the immediate area surrounding the tracks, which would make commutes more ecologically sustainable, according to the report.

Seeking "new forms of funding"

Finland's Transport and Communications Anne Berner says that she has long shared the views of the report's conclusions.

"We need to invest in our railway transport, which must be examined as part of our overall transport system, extending beyond the borders of Finland," the minister says.

Berner says the track project will need new forms of funding before it can move forward due to Finland's tight financial situation. She suggests private companies could contribute project-oriented work.

Berner says pension firms – some of which have already indicated an interest in the project – and municipalities might also be suitable investors.

"It would mean that a kind of new principle would be created for how projects are developed. It would also generate a balance sheet-type of approach and revenue model. We should think about what kind of revenue model would interest different investors," she says.

Minister Berner says the rail system upgrades cannot be funded solely from the state budget, saying that privatisation would need to be a central part of plans to modernise the network.

The Ramboll report recommends that Finland invest in more connections to Helsinki Airport. The report was commissioned by Finland's largest private sector business lobby the EK, the Construction Union RT, the union confederation SAK, the SKOL union of planning and consulting agencies, and the cities of Helsinki, Espoo, Turku and Tampere.

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