Public transport overhaul lays the groundwork for network expansion

Changes in the way people live and commute prompted an overhaul of the capital region's transport network and it could soon expand to include other cities.

File picture of HSL travel card reader at metro station showing new zones, 28th April 2019 / Credit: News Now Finland

The public transport network in Finland’s capital city region is undergoing the biggest shakeup in more than 30 years as travel boundaries are redrawn and new fare structures come into force.

The old travel zones, based on municipal boundaries, are replaced by new zones lettered A, B, C and D.

It means cost savings for many passengers, especially those living outside Helsinki city centre, and leaves the door open for other cities to become integrated into HSL‘s public transport network in the near future.

“At the moment the trips between Helsinki, Espoo and Vantaa are very expensive. There’s a big threshold to go to the other city. You have to buy a regional ticket and it’s almost double the price” explains Eeva Jakobsson, project manager at HSL.

“That’s something we were looking to change so the trips between cities are cheaper, and that’s what we are solving with these very large travel areas that go above and beyond city limits” she says.

New HSL ticket zones / Credit: HSL

Weekend technical changes 

Over the weekend, in anticipation of Monday morning’s commute, technical changes were rolled out to 3100 card readers; more than 500 ticket machines; 1700 onboard devices; and 300 sales and service points.

Passengers on the Helsinki metro system now hear a warning when they’re arriving at the last station in a certain zone, before crossing into the next zone where they’ll need to have a valid ticket.

File picture of Helsinki tram / Credit: News Now Finland

Biggest transport changes since 1986

The last time public transport services saw such a major change in operations was back in 1986 when regional tickets came into force.

Before then, the individual cities had their own bus companies with their own fares, and little or no cooperation and coordination on pricing and timetables.

While the way to pay for public transport tickets changed in 2002, the system which was established in 1986 stayed the same.

Until now.

“People are moving. They’re going beyond city lines every day transporting to work and school and hobbies and not caring about city lines” HSL’s Eeva Jakobsson tells News Now Finland.

“From Helsinki you can go easily to study in Otaniemi for example. And people’s journeys in Helsinki are not according to city lines, it’s outdated. So we need a ticket system that is easy to understand and expand” she adds.

File picture of Helsinki metro / Credit: News Now Finland

More cities set to join HSL’s network 

HSL’s network of cities has expanded recently, with the inclusion of Siuntio and Tuusula at the start of 2018; and Länsimetro is pushing westwards towards Espoonlahti.

The new ticket zone system makes it easier to add new zones to HSL’s network in the future, and Eeva Jakobsson says they’re in negotiations at the moment with other areas, although she wouldn’t be drawn on which cities.

“We are negotiating with other cities and looking into expanding […] so we want a ticket system that is very easy to expand and we can add letters, we’ve got ABCD and the next is E” she says.

How the new ticket system works

Every passenger who lives in zones A, B or C will need to buy tickets covering at least two zones – there’s no option to buy just a single zone.

Passengers with a two-zone ticket who occasionally need to travel further – for example, someone with an AB ticket who needs to go to the airport or Espoon keskus in zone C – can purchase an extension.

“The new zone extension tickets, you buy it on top of your monthly ticket and you get it cheaper” explains HSL’s Eeva Jakobsson.

In practice it means cheaper monthly fares for anyone who lives in zone B and used to buy a regional ticket – they could see savings of close to 50% with the new zone tickets.

The new system requires everyone who had an old style green HSL travel card to update to the new blue travel card which has been designed to incorporate the new zone system.