VR Group in the European Union
Finland is isolated from the European rail network due to the surrounding Balticsea and a track gauge different from the EU standard.
A major challenge is to safeguard the international connection to Russia, facilitated by the similar track gauge.
Severe winter conditions require solutions that ensure safety on the rail system and also pose a challenge for complying with EU legislation.
Over 90 % of the network is single track, and traffic is dense, limiting capacity and flexibility while increasing vulnerability. The majority of traffic is located on the main north-south and east-west arteries.
In Finland, transport services were separated from Infrastructure management in 1995. The rail operator VR Group comprises three business divisions:
Improving customer service
Customers form the basis for VR Group’s activities and customer focus is the most important value for VR Group. We constantly improve our functions in order to serve customers better. Customers are also tightly involved in the brainstorming and development processes of the services. Customer satisfaction in passenger services continues to improve. In 2013 over 86 % of our customers were content with travelling by rail.
The Rail Freight Market
In freight there is a continuous competition between different transport modes. The rail freight market was fully opened in 2007, with the first new entrant on the market in 2012.
New technology, such as RFID solutions, and the introduction of longer and heavier trains improve VR Transpoint customer service. International transport and transit is an increasingly important part of VR Transpoint’s business and Russia is the primary area for growth.
The Rail Passenger Market
Although in Finland there are not yet any other rail operators and the rail passenger market is not yet open to competition, trains compete already now with other transport modes, especially with private cars. VR operates some 270 long-distance trains and almost 800 commuter trains daily. 12 million passengers travel in long-distance trains annually and 64 million in commuter trains.
Long distance services comprise conventional and high speed (220 km/h) traffic on mixed conventional lines. Services to Russia include the Allegro high speed service between Helsinki and St. Petersburg, and a night train to Moscow.
Public service obligations
In 2018 Helsinki Metropolitan Area will organize a tendering of its rail services operated under public service contracts. All other public service contracts cover and connect different sparsely populated parts of the country.
It is essential to maintain the possibility of competent authorities to choose the tools for organizing public transport services in a way that best suit the local, regional or national needs.
VR applies EU passenger rights regulation without exceptions in all domestic long-distance passenger services. In addition, the national compensation scheme covers the entire network, with compensation for direct costs/losses caused by considerable delays. Passengers with reduced mobility have the rights provided by the EU regulation on the entire network, with assistance provided at all manned stations. In addition, physically disabled person in wheelchair or a visually impaired person can bring his/her own assistant on the train for free.
Challenging Winter Conditions
Finland’s climate is an operational challenge for rail services. During the four seasons the weather ranges from hot summers to cold, harsh winters with temperatures down to -40 °C. Snow, in particular, poses many problems for the network and the rolling stock. On a yearly basis, frost damage creates speed limits for trains and additional track maintenance needs. Despite these harsh weather conditions punctuality in passenger and freight rail services is at a very high level.
A Gateway to Russia
Russia is one of Finland’s main foreign trade partners. Well-functioning rail services to and from Russia and the CIS countries are vital to the Finnish economy. They consist of the similar track gauge and the safety, reliability and predictability of services. International freight to and from Russia constitutes roughly one third, or 14 million tons, of VR Transpoint’s total logistics business by rail.
The number of rail passengers between Finland and Russia has increased since the launch of the high speed Allegro rail service between Helsinki and St Petersburg in December 2010.
The train is a green form of transport
VR Group has given five environmental pledges for the years 2013-2020. With these pledges VR Group seeks to improve the energy efficiency of rail services by 20%. The aim is that the share of renewable energy of all energy used by VR Group exceeds 60%. We work for the safest possible transports of dangerous goods.
We strive for customer satisfaction concerning train and station cleanliness. Less consumption means more recycling: the share of waste taken to the landfill should stay below 15%. VR Group’s goal is to be the safest and the most environmentally friendly partner for our customers and the society.