Seed of new subway line sprouting in basement of Kamppi complex
Subway station excavated over twenty years ago; new lines planned North and West
By Juha Salonen
Typically when one enters the underground levels of the city, the idea is to study the past. In Helsinki’s Kamppi district, the spiral staircase at the subway station leads downwards into the future.
Beneath the current Kamppi subway station hides the starting block for a new subway line, a lower station that is waiting to be put to use.
Planning chief Seppo Vepsäläinen from Helsinki City Transport (HKL) and subway maintenance head Klaus Niskala leap among the fist-sized stones and damp clay earth. Somewhere up above, electrical lighting shines the way.
"The escalators that bring passengers to the lower level will be over there", Niskala points to the ceiling fixtures.
Kamppi is due to become the hub of a radial system of subway lines, with trains heading out in all directions.
The new line, now only in the planning stage, would run twenty metres below sea level, through the unfinished lower station in Kamppi.
The lower subway chamber has remained hidden from human eyes for several decades.
It was excavated underground with foresight during the initial construction phase of the subway, before the line was opened in September 1981.
"Excavating is cheap as such, so it was worth it to do it back then. If it was done now, the costs would be in a different league", Seppo Vepsäläinen reasons.
The dust has been left to settle in peace thereafter, and not many feet have trodden on the platform of the ghost station.
However, Vepsäläinen is currently making some quick plans for interior decorating.
"A wide central platform will be built here", his voice booms over the constant whirring of the air-conditioning system.
"The tracks will head North and South from there", he points to both ends of a cavern some one hundred metres in length. Preliminary tunnels that can fit trains have already been drilled into the walls of pneumatic mortar.
Once the eye gets used to the dimness, the station down below looks shorter than the active station upstairs. According to Vepsäläinen, the measurements of the station will not cause problems.
The discussion then moves to the automation of the future subway line. The new line will be designed as an automatic, driver-free version from the start.
"The subway trains guided by automatic traffic control are shorter, but they can run at shorter intervals than the current ones. Therefore, the station platforms are also shorter than the existing ones."
The focus is very much on the subway in underground Kamppi.
Upstairs, the metro line rushes between the districts of Vuosaari and Ruoholahti, but new routes are planned for the West and North.
In the current city zoning, the northbound subway line turns into a surface line in the Pasila district.
Vepsäläinen maintains that the Pasila station is only an intermediate phase in the expansion of the metro.
He would like to see the subway branch off to the Viikki district and due north to the international airport.
"It would take ten minutes to get to the airport by subway. And the construction of the tracks would not even be very expensive if it was a surface track in the central lane of the freeway to Tuusula", Vepsäläinen envisions.
The waft from the cellar brings with it new doubts nevertheless. No guarantees yet exist that the westbound line to Espoo will be built, but plans are being drafted for the next set of rails.
Vepsäläinen believes in his cause. The decision regarding the Espoo metro is creeping closer, and may even reach the finish line. And when that happens, drills will hit the bedrock in Kamppi.
There have been plans from time to time to utilise the idle station for other purposes. Among others, there were serious plans to place the Sea Life aquarium, now housed by the Linnanmäki amusement park, in the space drilled under the Kamppi subway station. "It was very close, but then they wound up excavating at Linnanmäki", Niskala recalls.
"HKL would still get a good wine cellar out of this", Vepsäläinen muses.
Helsingin Sanomat / First published in print 13.2.2005
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