National Train Strike Looms

Credit; @VRPalvelu Twitter

Passengers in Finland are bracing for a strike by train drivers, that will disrupt VR services for up to 48 hours from Monday at 18:00.

The strike is in protest at government plans to reform and privatize Finland’s rail network.

All trains in Finland will be canceled, except those going to Russia. Train drivers will return to work on Tuesday and Wednesday, but trains for Wednesday services might not be in the right location, so disruption to rail travel is expected to continue during Wednesday as well.

Travel Alternatives?

The worst affected area is the capital city region, where approximately 200,000 passengers use commuter trains each day. Helsinki Region Transport (HSL) say they will only be able to replace a small part of the rail service with replacement buses.

“As far as possible, it is advisable to consider biking, cycling or having a teleworking day” says Sami Luoma head of the Road Traffic Control Unit at the Finnish Transport Agency.

Getting a taxi might be difficult, due to high demand, especially Tuesday morning or afternoon. Kai Andersson, Chairman of the Taxi Association says pre-ordering could make it easier to catch a cab, but that the train strike probably won’t derail the nation.

“Past experience shows that people have prepared themselves well for these situation, by working from home, or using their own cars or other solutions” says Andersson.

Busy Commuter Roads

The Finnish Transport Agency says traffic was already busier going into Helsinki this morning, indicating that perhaps some commuters decided to beat the train strike by driving instead. Sami Luoma estimates that part of this was due to the strike, but could also partly be attributed to more people returning to work after their summer holidays.

Congestion is expected on Tuesday morning mainly in the metropolitan areas – the most likely locations for jams will be the main routes into Helsinki, such as Länsiväylä

Union Support

Other transport unions have voiced their support for the strike, however it doesn’t mean they’ll be joining the industrial action just yet.

Seven transport unions say the government’s privatization plans would have devastating consequences for regional and national competitiveness. The transport federations – including the Post & Logistics Union; the Civil Aviation Union; the Naval Union; the Air Hostess and Steward Associaion; the Rail Workers’ Union and the Railways Confederation – says that Finland’s export industry will also suffer if the privatization plans are pushed through.