FINLAND’s state-owned operator VR has concluded the purchase of the long-distance activities of MTR Express (MTRX), which operates services between Stockholm and Gothenburg in Sweden in competition with state-owned incumbent, SJ.

VR announced the deal in February and the transaction has now been approved by the Swedish Competition Authority. VR says it will begin to integrate MTRX operations into VR’s long-distance activities immediately. Trains operating the Stockholm - Gothenburg service will adopt under VR branding from this autumn.

"The market for commercial long-distance traffic in Sweden is about twice the size of Finland's, and the modal share of rail transport of all passenger traffic is even double compared with Finland,” says VR CEO, Ms Elisa Markula. “I believe that this acquisition enables us to achieve profitable growth in a competitive market where customer experience is a competitive advantage.”

MTRX began operating between Stockholm and Gothenburg in 2015. The company operates six Stadler Flirt X74 EMUs and provides 126 services every week, or over a third of the total operated on the route, and employs 120 people. MTRX reported revenue of SKr 350m ($US 33.7m) in 2022 and the business is described as profitable.

VR entered the Swedish market in July 2022 through the acquisition of Arriva Sweden, while its VR City Traffic Sweden subsidiary is an active participant in regional public transport operating tenders.

VR says the acquisition is aligned with its strategy to pursue profitable growth while preparing for the start of competition in its domestic market by gaining experience from Sweden. The transaction includes the transfer of ownership of the MTRX EMU fleet to VR. Stadler will continue to maintain the trains until 2033.

Markula says VR wants to continue the operator’s development of innovative services that have resulted in MTRX’s recognition as offering the best customer experience by the Swedish Quality Index.

“VR brings along its strong industry expertise and experience and together we will develop modern digital customer service channels as well as catering concepts for the Swedish market,” Markula says. “I warmly welcome MTRX's employees to VR - together we will create even better services and travel experiences for Nordic passengers.”