A new light rail line serving the Helsinki metropolitan area opened on Oct. 21, according to the city's news release.
Running crosstown between Espoo’s Keilaniemi and Helsinki’s Itäkeskus districts, the new light rail line is an investment in zero-emissions public transport. It also brings the City of Helsinki one step closer to achieving its goal of carbon neutrality by the year 2030.
Ahead of Schedule
Finland’s capital region celebrated the launch of its new light rail route almost one year ahead of schedule. Originally slated for completion in the summer of 2024, the light rail line project that started in 2019 was instead handed over to the metropolitan cities of Helsinki and Espoo and the public transport company Metropolitan Area Transport Ltd in late August 2023.
Because construction was completed ahead of schedule, regular traffic on the line also started earlier than had been expected.
Over the last 120 years, Helsinki has built up a 50-kilometer tram network that has become well-established. In the last few decades, the network has seen only minor changes but this all changes in autumn 2023, when the 25-kilometer route increase introduced by the new light rail line will single-handedly expand the tramway network by about 50%.
Rail Network as a City Planning Goal
The new light rail line has also led to significant levels of new housing being built up near the route in Helsinki and Espoo. Paths for cycling and pedestrians in the vicinity have also been renewed, and the light rail stops have been situated with not only current but also future housing, jobs, and services in mind.
“Helsinki's goal is to develop into a rail traffic network city. Already during the construction phase, the new light rail line has accelerated urban development. The numerous building projects that have sprouted up alongside the route show that the residents and the business community find proximity to the light rail very appealing,” said Ville Lehmuskoski, executive director of the City of Helsinki’s Urban Environment Division.
The new light rail line can convey triple the number of passengers. In 2030, this number is expected to grow to 91,000 passengers a day, and in 2050 it may be as many as 125,000.
Rail Transport Projects in the Pipeline
Rail transport will play a role in Helsinki and Finland’s entire metropolitan area in the future.
In addition to the launch of the city’s first light rail line, several other rail transport projects are currently being planned or built.
Construction is underway in Helsinki on a new 4.5-kilometer tramway to connect the new Kalasatama district with the hub of Pasila. Operation of this new tramway is scheduled to begin in 2024.
The Crown Bridges light rail project is also under construction, featuring a 10-kilometer light rail route that will connect the island of Laajasalo with the Helsinki city center.
Among other things, the Crown Bridges project includes construction of a 1,200-meter-long Kruunuvuorensilta bridge, which when completed, will be the longest bridge in Finland.