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VR to reintroduce retired rail carriages with rise in passenger traffic

Packed carriages on intercity routes such as Helsinki to Tampere, Seinäjoki and Vaasa have forced national rail services provider VR to bring retired carriages back into service.

Ihmisiä purkautuu junasta Seinäjoen rautatieasemalle.
Image: Mirva Ekman / Yle

National rail carrier VR says starting next spring, it will restore decommissioned rail carriages to service several intercity routes to ease crowding on existing lines.

According to the company, trains have been especially full on Fridays and Sundays, with the newer intercity Pendolino trains so full that some passengers have not even found seats.

Trains were said to be particularly packed on routes in Ostrobothnia in the west, running from Helsinki to Tampere through to Seinäjoki and Vaasa. However once past Seinäjoki, the congestion eases on northbound trains.

VR said that between January and October this year, passenger numbers have increased by 10 percent on services bound for Seinäjoki and 15 percent on trains heading to Vaasa, compared to the same period last year.

"Passenger numbers have been clearly rising this year. This is due to price discounts, while faster schedules have brought more passengers. Very often trains have been more packed than before," said intercity planning director Juho Hannukainen.

The growth in passenger numbers has been evident on all routes, VR noted. For example, trains are also fuller than usual in Oulu as well as Kokkola in western Finland and all other mainline stations.

Old carriages to the rescue

Last summer the national rail carrier added more trains to timetables on routes from Vaasa to Seinäjoki and Tampere. However it will soon need to boost carriages again, because new rail cars on order will not be available until later. The firm said that it will turn to older, single-level intercity carriages retired in October 2015 to help ease the congestion on trains during rush hour.

"During the autumn, we will have additional capacity, when the last of the control carriages ordered are commissioned. Passenger traffic has grown so much that we have ordered 20 new double-decker carriages, which we will put on the rails in 2019," he added.

The director noted that Pendolinos use a maximum of two units and it is not possible to add additional carriages to them. During rush hour they are at full capacity, so officials have decided to bring back older intercity trains that can accommodate additional carriages as demand requires.

"We have decided that during the sprint we will reintroduce 18 single-level trains removed from service, and they can be used for night trains. That way we can free up the newer double-decker carriages for faster trips where we want to have maximum speed. We first have to service the old trains and they will gradually be taken into use from March onwards. The last of the old trains will come online in September," Hannukainen explained.

He added that the company is considering ways to change the traffic structure so that more popular routes are served by the larger intercity trains rather than the smaller Pendolinos.

"One possibility would be next June when we make the required timetable changes. This is on the drawing board, but I can’t promise anything for certain at this stage."

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