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Wednesday's papers: Metro mess, urbanisation and a priestly problem with payments

The press on Wednesday focuses on new problems for the Helsinki Metro, advocates for urbanisation and a priest in trouble over his use of his credit card.

Ihmisiä Matinkylän metroaseman rullaportissa.
Commuters at Matinkylä Metro station. Image: Henrietta Hassinen / Yle

On Wednesday the newspapers covered yet more difficulties for the Helsinki Metro system, which suffered technical faults on Tuesday morning. The timing was unfortunate, as this is the first week the Metro has been running all the way to Matinkylä in Espoo after the holidays, and following the wide-ranging bus route re-organisation that has enraged some commuters in the western suburbs.

It is also the first full working week after the Christmas holidays so a big test for the much-delayed Metro extension, which opened to the public in November 2017.

That re-organisation was the focus of a big feature in Helsingin Sanomat, which hit the Metro stations on Tuesday to ask commuters how they felt about the changes. They found commuters who had seen their journey times extended by the changes around major new transport infrastructure, with buses direct to Helsinki city centre replaced by connecting buses from residential areas to Metro stations.

HS found that traffic on Länsiväylä, the main arterial route running through southern Espoo, has actually increased compared to the same day last year (when there was no Metro service to Espoo). The Helsinki Regional Transport Authority HSL says that the growth in traffic is actually smaller than expected based on Espoo's population growth, and the Metro has helped slow the increase in road traffic.

HSL also says that teething problems with bus services will die down as people get used to the new system, but warn HS readers that 'any major reorganisation will increase journey times for some people'.

Finland "slow to urbanise"

Kauppalehti's editorial on Wednesday returned to an old theme: the urbanisation of Finland, and the slow pace at which it proceeds. By Finnish standards the country's towns and cities are growing fast, but the population of Helsinki still lags behind other Nordic capitals and that concerns KL.

The business daily pounces on a pamphlet published by a consortium of trade unions, research institutes, construction lobbyists and a mortgage lender on Tuesday outlining the challenges in getting the Helsinki region growing at an appropriate rate. It identifies the problems as slow rates of apartment construction, the fragmented geography of the region, and poor connections linking up those fragments, and also recommends the adoption of English as an official administrative language in the region.

"The problems have been known, but they have been dealt with slowly or not at all," laments KL.

The pamphlet recommends the establishment of a new contract between municipalities and institutions in the region to direct education, innovation and research.

Priest with problems

Demokraatti and others report on the Bishop of Helsinki, Teemu Laajasalo, and his difficulties with book-keeping. Widely known as a comedian as well as the parish priest for the hip Kallio district, Laajasalo was elected bishop last year--and now the ecclesiastical authorities want an explanation for some of his spending in 2017.

His church-funded credit card was, reports Demokraatti, used to pay for a trip to Israel and for a 'royal suite' at a hotel in the eastern town of Savonlinna that came in at 325 euros per night, the most expensive room in the hotel. The chair of the diocese, Johanna Korhonen, has asked for an explanation as she regards Laajasalo's actions as 'clearly running counter to the guidelines'.

Her request includes 40 specific questions, including a request to explain why he paid the hotel's rack rate for two people on his Savonlinna sojourn when he insists he travelled alone, and why he bought tickets to Flow festival every year on the Church's dime.

According to Demokraatti, just three percent of the purchases made on Laajasalo's card were properly accounted for.

Laajasalo said that he mistakenly paid the higher rate for the Savonlinna suite, and didn't specifically request that room. Flow festival occurs on his patch, and is according to Laajasalo an important event at which the Church can reach young people. That's a key target for the Finnish Lutheran Church, which is funded by a Church tax which increasing numbers of younger taxpayers choose not to pay.

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