Škoda Transtech Oy and Helsinki City Transport (HKL) have agreed on a new order for 23 ForCity Smart Artic X54 light rail vehicles. The order is based on an option of previous procurement for the Jokeri Line which will receive a total of 29 trams, currently in the manufacturing phase. The ordered LRVs will operate on the Yliskylä and Haakoninlahti lines in the future.
The five-car vehicles are metre-gauge, have a length of 34.5 metres, a width of 2.42 metres and the unusual Bo’Bo’Bo axle arrangement (one driven bogie under each of four of the five carriage sections). So far, this type of vehicle will only be used in Helsinki. Inside there are 78 seats and 136 standing places.
The “Crown Bridge” project
The Crown Bridges project will connect the Laajasalo, Korkeasaari and Kalasatama areas to the centre of the city by means of a 10 km light rail line. In addition, as part of this project, a new scenic seaside walking and bicycling path will also be created.
The most visual part of the project are the three new bridges: Kruunuvuorensilta, Finkensilta and Merihaansilta. With a total length of 1,200 metres, Kruunuvuorensilta will be Finland’s longest bridge. In addition to the construction of the three new bridges, one other bridge, Hakaniemen silta, will also be upgraded as part of this project.
Construction work will begin at the earliest in 2021. The goal is to have the connection ready by late 2026 and to start passenger traffic on the tramline in 2027.
Project partners are City of Helsinki, YIT, NRC Group Finland, Ramboll Finland, Sweco Infra & Rail and Sitowise.
The primary objective of the Crown Bridges project is to provide a quick and reliable transport connection from the growing Laajasalo area to the centre of the city.
The Crown Bridges light rail connection will ensure smooth traffic both inside and in and out of Laajasalo during a period which will see the area’s population more than double thanks to the completion of a wholly new residential district, Kruunuvuorenranta, and considerable infill development. The project will also enable significantly improved transport connections to and from Korkeasaari.
A direct light rail connection between the city centre and Laajasalo will also decrease the congestion projected for the eastern branches of the metro system.
In addition to the light rail connection, the Crown Bridges project will also make the Kalasatama, Korkeasaari, Mustikkamaa and Laajasalo areas accessible by bicycle or on foot, as the light rail line will be bordered by a high-quality bicycle route/walkway.
The new tram lines
Thanks to the project, the shortest way from Kruunuvuorenranta to the Central Railway Station, which is currently 11 km and runs via Itäväylä, will decrease to just 5.5 km.
The City of Helsinki aims to increase sustainable transport’s share of all passenger traffic. The Crown Brides project will promote sustainable transport by creating new routes for walkers, bicyclists and public transport. This will increase their combined share of all traffic moving inside the city.
Two new lines will be created as part of the project: Central Railway Station–Yliskylä and Central Railway Station–Haakoninlahti. According to current estimates, the travel time by tram from the centre to Kruunuvuorenranta will be 15 minutes while Yliskylä will be reached about in 20 minutes.
A decision to implement the project was reached by Helsinki City Council in August of 2016.
In 2011–2013, the city organised the Kalasatama–Kruunuvuorenranta transport connection design competition.
Out of an initial 52 applications, 10 work groups were chosen for the competition proper. Once the dust had settled, first prize went to Gemma Regalis, a proposal designed by WSP Finland Ltd and Knight Architects Ltd.
The competition’s jury was specifically looking for a solution that would best suit the area’s demanding landscape and take into account its rich cultural history. The jury paid special attention to the usability and durability aspects and aesthetic qualities of each proposal.
The transport connection had already been included in the general plan of 2002, while a City Council decision reached in 2008 added specifications which mandated its development as a light rail connection.
A broad range of options aimed at connecting the centre and Laajasalo by means of quick public transport has been considered over the years. A light rail running on multiple bridges emerged as the solution that best achieves the project’s goals.
The new Škoda Transtech trams
“We appreciate the trust HKL has shown towards our operations by placing a new tram order from Škoda Transtech. We are proud of this most advanced light rail vehicle on the market, where the multi-articulated structure is combined with fully pivoting bogies for the first time ever,” says Juha Vierros, CEO of Škoda Transtech.
Experience with light rail vehicles has already been gained in Tampere, where the first LRVs delivered by Škoda Transtech are already in trial operation. When completed, the light rail vehicles on the Crown Bridges will be identical to the LRVs of light rail line 550, which is constructed between Helsinki Itäkeskus and Keilaniemi in Espoo.
“The vehicles in the Artic family of products have been designed for demanding conditions to withstand Nordic weather conditions and a variable network. ForCity Smart Artic X54 is a modern high-speed LRV, which can also be used on the city centre tramway,” Juha Vierros continues.
In Helsinki, there are currently 70 trams of the X34 model, which predates the ForCity Smart Artic X54 light rail vehicle. There will be 29 LRVs manufactured for light rail line 550 (Jokeri Line), and now the option order from HKL will increase the total number of Artic trams in the Helsinki metropolitan area to 122. In addition, 19 LRVs are currently being delivered to Tampere, and 3 vehicles have previously been delivered to Schöneiche, Germany. We reported here:
“The Artic trams, which have been gradually introduced since 2013, have worked well from HKL’s point of view, and the citizens have also been satisfied with them. The vehicle type coming to the Crown Bridges and the light rail line 550 is the big brother of the Artic vehicle in the city centre, and it also takes into account the challenges of our rail network and climate. It is also beneficial from the perspective of cost-effectiveness of the use of vehicles during their life cycle, that the light rail vehicle series will be large enough with this acquisition of Crown Bridges’ vehicles,” says Ville Lehmuskoski, CEO of HKL.
“I am happy that HKL is putting its trust in the Škoda Artic tram that is developed and produced in Finland. Stability of local orders is of major importance for the stability of our Škoda Transtech factory in Finland,” says Zdeněk Majer, Chairman of the Board of Škoda Transtech and Member of the Board of Directors of the Škoda Transportation group.09.02.2021