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Finnish rail transport cuts services facing heavy snow

Xinhua, January 13, 2016 Adjust font size:

Heavy snowfall hit southern Finland on Tuesday, and the national rail transport operator VR has resorted to pre-emptive action and reduced the frequency of long haul trains between Helsinki and the cities of Tampere and Turku.

Even though Finland is historically well experienced with massive snow falls and long winters, inclement weather may cause problems in contemporary society. On the railroad, the automation of switches seems to have made services more vulnerable.

Some years ago VR got extremely bad publicity for delays caused by snow. The main problem was the automated Helsinki railroad yard where the switches have to be cleaned with shovels.

Some decades ago there were dozens of men operating the switches manually and also cleaning them during the snowfalls. No such manpower was on the payrolls following the automation of the switches and in an emergency some years ago desk duty persons were sent to remove snow.

Facing reports about an imminent snow fall on Tuesday, the national railroad operator VR announced advance cancellations. Commuter services were curtailed as well and the trains serving the Helsinki Airport were placed on 20-minute frequency.

Ari Vanhanen, the operation director of VR, told local media that the bottleneck is the array of switches just north of the Helsinki station where trains change tracks and directions.

Following the cancellations, the switching systems were able to cope with the remaining number of trains.

The snow fall in Helsinki area on Tuesday was estimated at 20 cms and the current snow front is predicted to continue until Thursday. Road transit reported dozens of small collisions but no major accidents.

The Finnish weather forecast service said that a full metre of snow fell over the sea some 50 kms out of Helsinki last week.

The Finnish snow record was broken on the western coast in the municipality of Merikarvia last week with 73 cm in a day. The previous record was reported in the town of Rauma, also on the west coast, with 50 cm in 1971. Endit