Länsimetro starts trial run for increased operations

Three out of four trains will continue to Matinkylä instead of stopping at Tapiola, during December.

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File picture of Helsinki metro / Credit: News Now Finland

Länsimetro is currently testing a more frequent service at peak hours, with more metros going all the way to Matinkylä instead of terminating at Tapiola. 

If there’s no problems during a December test phase, the more frequent service might be introduced in the coming years. 

“There’s no demand for this at the moment, but we are constantly monitoring passenger numbers” explains Johanna Wallin, Group Manager at HSL. 

“The assumption is that there will be a need to change to a more frequent service interval by the time the metro starts operations to Kivenlahti (Estimated in 2023). More frequent intervals have already been planned for in the 2020-2022 Economic and Operational Plan” Wallin says. 

In practice, the more frequent service interval – known as the 3-4 model – means that during the morning and afternoon rush hours, three of the four trains heaint to Espoo will continue to Matinkylä, and one turns around at Tapiola station. 

At present, every other Länsimetro train to Espoo turns around at Tapiola. 

Wallin estimates that with three out of four trains heading to Matinkylä, they could carry about 3600 more passengers per day than the current model. 

Although the passenger load of the metro is not yet close to maximum capacity, Wallin says the load is unevenly distributed at present. 

“Currently the trains that continue to Matinkylä are constantly full or fuller than their counterparts that stay in Tapiola, that have more space. The experiment will also determine if the 3-4 model will have an effect on this” she says. 

HSL and HKL have previously tested more frequent train intervals only on single days. This time the experiment, which starts on Monday, will last for five weeks. 

The aim is to find out how, for example, external disruptions affect a busier metro schedule. 

“Previous test days have not seen any major external disturbances, for example equipment breakdowns or passenger-related issues. Now, we want to have a broader experience of how such situations affect more frequent train intervals” says Wallin. 

File picture of Helsinki metro train, August 2019 / Credit: News Now Finland

Based on previous experiments, a more frequent service interval would appear to work in a normal scenario where there are no major disruptions, according to Wallin. 

“There were some small delays, but we managed to correct them.” 

More trains going all the way to Matinkylä would be, according to Wallin, the first step in increasing the metro’s capacity. It would help the current situation and be a model for the coming decade. 

After that, HSL estimates that not all the passengers would fit on the metro. This scenario is even more likely if the population in Espoonlahti area would grow rapidly, and if only every second train would run all the way to Kivenlahti on the new Länsimetro extension, which is currently under construction. 

Last autumn HSL proposed digging out a turning track to Matinkylä to solve the issue. According to Wallin the implementation of the 3-4 metro model would reduce the need for a turning track in the short term. HSL considers the Matinkylä turning track to be essential as more traffic is needed to that station in the future. 

“The Matinkylä turning track would reduce the entire system’s vulnerability to disruptions and allow all trains to continue to Matinkylä” says Wallin. 

In Espoo the turning track has been opposed because of both the cost and the schedule of the metro extension. 

If the turning track was now quarried in Matinkylä, it would delay the launch of the Kivenlahti metro traffic by an estimated one and a half years. 

HKL is also looking into metro automation. However, automation would probably not be introduced until the 2030s.