FINNISH state railway VR Group wants government budget decisions to be made on further investment in improving the country’s rail network to enable a reduction in delays.

The operator makes the case that improving the operational capability of the railway can improve the punctuality of trains thereby offering a better passenger experience and promoting the growth of environmentally-friendly rail transport.

“VR's goal is to increase the popularity of public transport and rail travel,” says Mr Lauri Sipponen, VR Group CEO. “An important competitive factor in rail transport is providing a superior passenger experience, the basic prerequisite of which is running  trains according to the timetable.”. 

VR Group says the poor condition of the network and lack of maintenance are the causes of delays to long-distance trains and more than half of local services. In 2020, punctuality for long-distance trains was 88.6% and commuter train punctuality was 96.6%.

“After the coronavirus crisis, customers must be lured back to the trains,” Sipponen says. “It is our responsibility at VR to invest everything we can in improving the customer experience. Every delay is too much, and every delay from a workplace meeting, for example, causes the passenger resentment and a loss for the company and the national economy.”

Sipponen says that 35% of long-distance delays are caused by VR Group and that this must be reduced. “We hope that the government's budget session will make decisions on further investments in improving the current rail network. The level of funding for basic infrastructure management should be stable and sufficiently high to create the operational security of the network and a good passenger experience.”

VR Group highlights issues including more than 100 local temporary speed restrictions on the network. Repairing half of these would cost €60m but improve punctuality the operator says.

"Small investments can be used to remove speed limits due to the poor condition of the different interconnected lines and to improve train punctuality,” Sipponen says.