In an approximate semi-circle through the northern suburbs and neighbouring municipalities of the Finnish capital, a brand new tramroute has started operational service yesterday, on 21 October 2023. Prime Minister Petteri Orpo gave the opening speech on the campus of Aalto University in the Otaniemi district of Espoo, and already on the first day regular service started – the best opportunity for the population to try out the new, environmentally friendly and fast connection.
The new line
The new double-track line is double-track throughout and 24.5 km long, 16 km of which are in Helsinki and the remaining 9 km in the city of Espoo. Espoo will thus be accessible by tram for the first time.
Although without a direct connection to HSL’s municipal tramway, the new line bears the number 15 and is thus clearly recognisable as a public transport axis integrated into the overall network. The chosen metre gauge also allows for continuous regular service in the future in the event of a track connection.
There are already direct connections to the Helsinki metro at three stops and to the suburban trains at another 34 stops, 15 of which are in the Espoo area. Raide-Jokeri, as the new tram is called in the country, opens up an already densely populated area in the Helsinki metropolitan region with its approximately 2 million inhabitants.
About 1.9 km of the total route share the alignment with the general road traffic, another 2 km exclusively with buses and taxis on specially reserved sections. The majority of the route, however, in total 21.6 km, have their own track, separated from the rest of the traffic, on central reservations, next to the carriageway or on dedicated tracks. A short tunnel section is also part of the route profile of the new Raide-Jokeri.
The previous bus line 550 used to carry about 40,000 passengers on a daily average – the new tram line 15 is expected to carry considerably more: The progrnoses assume about 90,000 passengers in 2030. The attractive new rail connection is also expected to benefit from the establishment of new jobs and new residential development in its immediate catchment area, thereby making the area itself more attractive. In the immediate vicinity of the new Line 15, a population growth of about 15,000 inhabitants is expected in the next ten years, and about 4,000 new jobs are to be added, too.
Vehicles and depot
The supplier of the 29 new low-floor trams is the Skoda Group. The vehicles of the adapted Artic type come from the Finnish Transtech factory taken over by Skoda. They are 34.5-metre-long bi-directional cars, with two single and three double doors on each side, and can accommodate up to 256 passengers, 78 of them seated. They have been delivered since 2022, and trial runs on the line began on 23 March 2023.
The vehicles are based in a new depot in Roihupelto near the eastern end of the line, adjacent to the existing Metro depot there.
The total investment costs of the project, including the vehicles and depot installations, are approximately EUR 548 million, slightly under budget.