Tuesday 19 November 2019

Finland: Winter preparations on the rail network – improved cooperation, more resources

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Winter calls for enhanced maintenance on the rail network. Taking on board lessons from last winter, the Finnish Transport Infrastructure Agency and other operators have collaborated to improve operating models and guidelines for winter maintenance. Resources will be added to the management of the most difficult situations.

The winter of 2018 – 2019 was difficult for everyone on the national rail network, because there was an extended period of sub-zero temperatures with a lot of snow in January. The Finnish Transport Infrastructure Agency (FTIA) has worked with traffic management and transport operators to review the problems experienced and has identified a range of development measures to ensure better trafficability. The snow-clearing plans to be drawn up before the winter season will include more detailed descriptions of the most critical snow-clearing sites.

The main thing in preparing for winter is ensuring cooperation between the various operators and securing resources. The FTIA has set up a winter preparedness group with VR Group, Fenniarail Oy, Finrail Oy and Helsinki Regional Transport to monitor the situation both regionally and nationally and to generate information for the aforementioned operators.

The national rail network is divided into 12 maintenance areas. Snow-clearing plans for the coming winter have been prepared for these areas, prioritising snow removal at the track system diagram level. Also, the FTIA has allocated additional human and equipment resources reserves for all maintenance areas.

Anticipating weather conditions is important for winter maintenance. The FTIA is working with partners to gain more detailed regional weather forecasts and advance notifications.

The FTIA has also explored the possibility of purchasing or renting more effective snow removal equipment. Talks are ongoing with the October Railway in Russia to gain use of their heavy equipment in a pilot scheme in south-eastern Finland, an area particularly important for goods traffic.

The reliability of switches has been improved and guidelines updated to allow faster recovery from problems with switches.

The main thing above everything else is to ensure smooth cooperation. To this end, the responsibilities of the various organisations have been defined in more detail; any situations encountered will thereby be more efficiently dealt with.

Track maintenance work may affect punctuality
Although winter is coming, there is still track maintenance in progress on the rail network. This work imposes some speed restrictions and thus has a bearing on goods traffic capacity. Track maintenance work is in progress on the line between Helsinki and Kerava.

Train services will increase substantially around Tampere in December, and winter maintenance in that area therefore requires more investment. However, the increase in train operations may pose challenges for finding slots in which to perform the work.

(Source: FTIA)

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Photo: Antero Kaukonen © FTIA/Vayla