THE Finnish Ministry of Transport and Communications has published a report on introducing 1435mm gauge in Finland, which has found that converting the entire national 1524mm-gauge network would have more negative effects than benefits.
Following the European Commission’s (EC) announcement last year that it intended to make 1435mm gauge mandatory for all new lines forming part of the Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T), the ministry commissioned a preliminary study on introducing standard gauge in Finland from Proxion, Destia and Ubigu.
The gauge requirement would be introduced as part of the ongoing revision of the TEN-T Regulation. The EC’s proposed amendments include the stipulation that new lines should only be built to the European standard nominal track gauge of 1435mm, and that member states with a different gauge should assess the “migration” of existing lines forming part of TEN-T corridors.
Finland believes that it should be possible to retain national discretion on the issue of track gauge, and is continuing to lobby for this to be retained in the final TEN-T Regulation.
The report for the ministry says that the alternatives considered would not be cost-effective if considered solely from an operational perspective. However, it could also be assessed when considering other issues such as security of supply or as part of major infrastructure investment projects.
Three options were considered, including building a new 1435mm-gauge “trunk connection” alongside the existing main line from Helsinki to Tornio on the Swedish border. This option would deliver the greatest benefit and have the fewest disadvantages, according to the report.
The report also examined adopting 1435mm gauge for the new lines being taken forward by separate project companies, such as the Helsinki - Turku high-speed line and the Riihimäki - Tampere route. This option was found to be worthy of further consideration in more detail.
The third option considered was converting all Finnish sections of the TEN-T network to 1435mm gauge, as proposed by the EC. This would have more adverse effects than potential benefits, and would be particularly disruptive to freight operations, especially the movement of timber and other commodities.
The report says that if 1435mm gauge were to be widely adopted in Finland, it would be more cost-effective to regauge almost the entire 1524mm-gauge national network, although this would involve considerable expenditure.
Regauging was examined, taking sustainability, efficiency and maintenance into account. The report found that a uniform 1435mm-gauge network in Finland could help to develop international passenger and freight traffic, and improve the availability of rolling stock.
On technical issues, the report says that laying a third running rail to provide 1435mm gauge on 1524mm gauge routes would not be possible due to the minor difference between the two gauges.
Providing both gauges by means of four running rails would not be possible on electrified lines, as the track centres of the two gauges are different, meaning that this solution could not be adopted in an efficient and widescale manner.
On rolling stock, the report considered the option of changing bogies, as already undertaken at the Tornio border crossing. This requires wagons to be lifted, a slow process that is unsuitable for major freight volumes, according to the report.
Specialist gauge-changing passenger rolling stock is in operation elsewhere, the report notes, but this solution has yet to be deployed in freight operations.
The report says that further investigation will be required to fully assess the issues raised by introducing 1435mm gauge in Finland, including more detailed cost:benefit analysis and an assessment of the potential environmental impact.