While discussions are still at an early stage, the ministry says the new package will include at least the same level of service as currently provided.

The ministry currently pays VR €30m a year to operate loss-making services, mainly commuter services in southern Finland and long distance services on quieter routes.

VR also operates night train services in Lapland under the contract, which supplements its commercial operations that account for the majority of rail services.

The new contract will simplify the arrangement and improve the quantity and quality of services.

“Functioning rail transport is essential for facilitating everyday life and expanding working areas, and is an important factor for Finland’s competitiveness,” the ministry says. “In addition, shifting traffic to the railways is one of the means of reducing transport emissions.”

Track capacity for possible additional services will be reserved in April.