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Heads of unions: Major shift in railways must be prepared carefully together with staff

The Ministry of Transport and Communications and VR Group have come to an understanding on how railway passenger services will be opened to competitive tendering. The heads of railway sector unions point out that competitive tendering will cause significant changes to the sector and future employment conditions must be agreed on together with staff.

VR’s monopoly of the Finnish railway network will end in the next decade when railway passenger traffic will be opened to competition. The Ministry of Transport and Communications and VR Group have come to an understanding on how the opening of competition will proceed.

“We are glad that this long process has finally come to an end, as has the uncertainty experienced by staff. Many options have been tossed around,” says JHL’s Chairman of Railway Professionals Teppo Järnstedt.

“Nevertheless, it is good that the matter has been given careful consideration and that competition in railway traffic will be developed slowly, without making unnecessary structural changes,” says Chairman of the Locomotive Drivers Union (VML) Tero Palomäki.

According to the chairmen, the railway network is experiencing a major shift that must be prepared carefully: “It is important to include staff in future preparations and to agree on rules that will secure the position of employees and employment terms in this change situation.”

The goal is for the competitive tendering to start up in June 2022. Before then, VR and the Ministry of Transport and Communications will collaborate to ensure that the necessary corporate restructuring is completed. VR’s operations will change, with the current operations divided up into several companies.

VR and the Ministry will establish a rolling stock company and a real estate company which will be under the Ministry’s state ownership steering. The companies will be special assignment companies wholly owned by the state and the intention is to have them operational by the end of this year.

All of the Sm2 and Sm4 trains used in regional rail services in Southern Finland and the spare parts for the rolling stock and certain specialist tools will be transferred to the rolling stock company. The rolling stock company will also begin preparations for the acquisition of new rolling stock for regional rail transport services.

Real estate that is necessary for regional rail transport services in Southern Finland will be transferred to the real estate company. The buildings of the Helsinki depot owned by VR will be transferred to the company, including their fixed installations, as will the VR-owned station buildings located in the Southern Finland regional transport area. In addition, VR will relinquish the Helsinki station area.

A further spin off will be the maintenance of rolling stock. A separate maintenance company will be formed within the VR Group that will include the required maintenance staff and the spare parts, machines and equipment needed for maintaining the rolling stock. VR will develop the maintenance company into an independent company and relinquish its ownership before the competitive tendering of rail traffic starts up in Finland.

For more information:

Chairman of Railway Professionals, JHL, Teppo Järnstedt +358 50 537 2412
Chairman of the Locomotive Drivers Union (VML), Tero Palomäki +358 44 737 9797