Decline in number of eastbound trucks heading for Russia now plain to see
FINNRA nevertheless maintains ban on access to two routes
As a result of the tightened economic circumstances now prevailing, even in Russia, the truck traffic across the eastern border has declined considerably over the last few weeks.
Prior to previous Christmases, the queues of trucks have stretched for over 50 kilometres, but lately the lines have shortened to some kilometres.
In the course of the past six weeks, the eastbound transit traffic via the three largest border crossing points has declined by 17% compared with the previous year.
The Finnish Road Administration is nevertheless prepared for traffic jams. From Wednesday onwards, Russian-bound trucks will be prohibited from using Highway 26 between Hamina-Taavetti and Road 387 between Vaalimaa-Lappeenranta in the daytime.
The driving ban will be lifted on Monday December 29th.
The reduced number of trucks has also been noticed by Kalevi Kuokka, resident in Vaalimaa.
Kuokka lives a couple of kilometres away from the frontier station and he is in the habit of making a note in his calendar when trucks are queueing on Highway 7 and stopping near his house.
When Helsingin Sanomat visited Kuokka in the autumn of last year, there was a note for almost every day, but over the past few months the pages have been a good deal less busy.
”In November there were only 20 queueing days, compared with 30 last year”, Kuokka reports.
The shortening of queues is not attributable to reduced traffic only. According to Tommi Kivilaakso, the Director of the Eastern Customs District, the Russian border officials have recently been able to handle the eastbound truck traffic more efficiently.
Transito traffic will become even more effective next year, when more data than before will be transferred over the border electronically.
Tommi Kivilaakso evaluates that if the price of oil that is important to Russia remains as low as it is now, it is possible that queues at border crossing points will no longer be a nuisance next year.
However, the Ministry of Transport and Communication believes that in spite of the current dip, transito traffic is not going to cease entirely.
The ministry has planned to set up a pricey parking area for eastbound trucks in Vaalimaa, but the project has been delayed as some landowners have complained against the decision to the Supreme Administrative Court.
According to Permanent Secretary Harri Pursiainen, the ministry has not considered abandoning the planned truck park, in spite of the manifest decline in eastbound traffic.
Kalevi Kuokka reports that some local residents think that the funds should instead be used to turn the eastbound Highway 7 into a motorway.
Sitting in his living-room and watching the highway, Kuokka himself has no opinion regarding the parking area. In any case, he intends to monitor the queues of trucks also in the future.
”A calendar for the next five years is already in the drawer”, Kuokka adds wrily.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Major unemployment threat looming over Hanko as imports of cars grind to a halt (30.10.2008)
Brakes come on for transit traffic of cars through Finland to Russia (23.10.2008)
Finland considers limiting number of border-crossing permits for Russian trucks in attempt to solve congestion problems (16.10.2008)
Record queues threaten eastbound cross-border traffic at Christmas (13.12.2007)
Parking area for eastbound trucks to cost over EUR 24 million (27.3.2007)
Road use fees for trucks would cost EUR 13 million (10.11.2008)
Parking fees, tolls, and road use bans in prospect for eastbound truck traffic (6.11.2008)
Border traffic in Imatra down by more than third in October (4.11.2008)
Ministry of Transport and Communications
Finnish Road Administration