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Tuesday's papers: Finnish inequality, Vaasa powers up, lorry deaths highlight blind spot risks

A new battery plant in the west coast city gets the go-ahead and two similar fatal accidents spark traffic safety fears.

Havainnekuva Vaasaan suunnitellusta Teslan tehtaasta.
A mock-up of the Vaasa "gigafactory" that never was. Image: Vaasan kaupunki

Tampere-based Aamulehti is among the papers combing through a new report on Finland's regional equality Tuesday morning.

The report by the social democratic Kalevi Sorsa Foundation divides the country's municipalities into four groups, ranking them according to development indicators like median income, employment rate and broadband availability.

Five of the eight municipalities in the Tampere municipal area fall into the most prosperous category, the paper reports, while one, Orivesi, is deemed to be part of "average Finland."

Mayor Antero Alenius of another "average Finland" municipality, Hämeenkyrö, told Aamulehti small towns needed to benefit from any efforts to spread wealth and development more evenly across Finland.

"Even if people do not want to shift completely from the city to quieter places, it must be possible for them to live there part-time. The municipal services need to be able to handle them," he said.

"We need to find different types of living outside of dense cities. Food and timber don't grow in cities. The rest of Finland is the Finland of industry and raw materials," he continued.

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Vaasa powers up in new battery deal

Business and economics-focused Kauppalehti reports on a new deal that will see a British chemical company build a battery factory in the west coast city of Vaasa.

“Vaasa has a strong ecosystem of battery materials, reliably available renewable energy and sustainable raw materials," Robert MacLeod, chief executive of Johnson Matthey told the paper.

Vaasa has focused on building a reputation as a manufacturing centre for batteries in recent years. Although the city missed out in a bid to host electric car maker Tesla's so-called gigafactory, local and national authorities have continued to court new bids. The 2021 state budget includes 300 million euros in funding for the government-owned Finnish Minerals Group, which is a co-investor in the new project

The city is helped by its proximity to many of the raw materials needed to produce batteries, Kauppalehti writes.

"Not many battery factories can be found at a similar distance to mineral reserves, even on a global scale, which is certainly a major strength. It is very close to achieving almost complete self-sufficiency in the key minerals," Minister of Economic Affairs Mika Lintilä told the paper.

Finland's minerals industry has at times proved controversial, with the bosses of the former Talvivaara mine convicted of environmental offences in 2018.

According to Kauppalehti, the plant could be operational by 2024.

Spate of lorry accidents brings blind spots into focus

Two very similar, fatal traffic accidents in the course of just a few days have highlighted the dangers heavy goods vehicles pose to pedestrians, reports Tuesday's Ilta-Sanomat.

The tabloid describes how two recent deaths, that of a nine-year-old girl in Espoo last Friday, and one of an elderly pedestrian in Tampere on Monday, were caused by trucks turning corners.

"Although the investigation into the accidents is ongoing, they are linked by three things," the paper writes. "A truck turning right, a pedestrian crossing with a traffic light and the so-called blind spot of heavy goods vehicles."

"Even though the truck's cab is high up, there are areas around the vehicle that the driver cannot see from the driver's seat," said Toni Vuoristo from traffic safety body Liikenneturva.

According to Ilta-Sanomat, regulatory bodies are well aware of the problem. By 2025 the European agency responsible for regulating lorries will introduce rules substantially increasing the size of windows in truck cabs. New systems based on radar, cameras and other sensors are also in development, the paper writes.

But for many people, the changes will come too late. According to Ilta-Sanomat, 30 cyclists and 22 pedestrians were killed by vehicles in Finland in 2020.

"Each of them was one too many," Liikenneturva's Juha Valtonen told the paper.

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