Finnish rail services in disarray due to delay in bridge replacement project

RAIL TRAFFIC in Finland was in disarray on Sunday and Monday following a nearly 24-hour delay in a railway bridge replacement project in Lempäälä, near Tampere.

The replacement was not completed until 12 noon on Monday, 21 hours later than the scheduled completion at 3 p.m. on Sunday. Helsingin Sanomat wrote that the trains could not cross the bridge at full speed after the resumption of traffic, because the completion phase dragged on at least until last night.

“Dismantling the old bridge took longer than expected”, Maija Lavapuroa project manager at the Finnish Transport Infrastructure Agency told YLE on Monday.

While VR, the Finnish state railway company, used coaches to replace train services between Tampere and Toijala, trains carrying a total of 4,000 passengers were stuck for hours in Hämeenlinna, Parkano, Tampere and Toijala.

For example, a Helsinki-Kemijärvi night train was delayed about 16 hours and finally arrived in Oulu on Monday at 8:40 PM. according to YLEJari Tapiowho was one of the passengers, told public broadcaster he had a 23-hour journey to Oulu, having left Loimaa at 8:30 pm on Sunday.

Tapio described the mood on the train as confused: he himself had gone to bed at night and woke up realizing that the train hadn’t moved an inch.

“Communication was really terrible – nobody really knew what was going to happen. If I’d known the trip was going to be like this last night, I could have rented a car. This is pretty tragicomic,” he said.

Piia TyyniläVR, the director of long-haul services at VR, apologized Monday for the disruption caused by train operations for travelers on YLE TV1. The Finnish Transport Infrastructure Agency, she reminded, regularly carries out work between the passenger peaks just before and after the holidays, without any disruption.

“The timing wasn’t a success this year when you look at people’s comments,” she says said

While the Transport Infrastructure Department is responsible for carrying out railway works, VR is responsible for communicating the consequences to passengers. Was there a communication breakdown between the two companies as passengers had to wait hours to hear the fate of their journey?

“I am sure that information has been exchanged between VR and the Transport Infrastructure Agency,” says Tyynilä. “But the uncertainty was caused by the constant adjustment of our timetable for the completion of the works.”

“It is very annoying and unfortunate for our passengers that the message did not get through properly and that many had to change their plans as a result. I’m really sorry.”

Tyynilä told YLE that all passengers have the right to request compensation for the disruption. VR can also be contacted in cases where a passenger has missed a flight, for example due to disruption of rail transport.

“We will deal with all applications on a case-by-case basis and we will certainly find a solution,” she said, estimating that applications should be processed this week and next.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT

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