Helsinki cancels Metro automation project
Manual guidance by train drivers to remain
The Helsinki Metro trains and those on the western extension of the system to Espoo will be operated by human drivers at least until the 2020s.
The board of Helsinki City Transport (HKL) decided on Wednesday to cancel the contracts signed with Siemens on installing an automated guidance system for the commuter trains.
Negotiations with Siemens on the matter concluded on Wednesday, and HKL managing director Matti Lahdenranta proposed to the board that the contract should be cancelled.
“We negotiated intensely on what conditions might make it possible to continue. We were not convinced that the project could be implemented in the time frame that the construction of the Western Metro imposes on us”, Lahdenranta said.
The Western Metro is scheduled for completion in 2015. The decision on the automation of the system will not affect the implementation of the extension.
“The decision is not critical by any means. We will achieve the same level of service in any case”, says Matti Kokkinen, CEO of Länsimetro, the company that is building the western extension of the system.
Excavating the tunnels has proceeded according to plan, with 42 per cent of the blasting and digging completed.
Helsinki decided on ordering an automation system for the Metro in 2008 at a price of EUR 115 million. The actual costs are expected to be much higher than that. The project has been overshadowed by disagreements on costs and who will pay for them.
Landenranta says that the city would have been willing to implement the installation of automation in the Metro first and argue about costs later. Siemens would have wanted an agreement on the price right away.
“We did not believe that the project could move ahead smoothly if there are disagreements while the work is proceeding.”
The collapse of the project is likely to lead to a protracted legal battle.
The City of Helsinki has paid Siemens EUR 10 million for preparations for the installation of automatic guidance in the existing Helsinki Metro, and an additional EUR 7 million for the westward extension. Lahdenranta and the chair of the HKL board Jessica Karhu (Green) believe that the city has a strong case.
“This contract is being cancelled, and we will demand that all of the money should be repaid. We have secured our rear and we believe that we will win”, Lahdenranta said.
Lahdenranta admits that the collapse of the Metro project was a personal setback for him.
“In a project like this the expectation is for the management to be committed. If the management is not committed to the project, then its possibilities for being implemented are not good.”
He would not speculate as to whether or not the collapse of the project might affect his possibilities to hold on to his job. “Others will have to decide that.”
Next HKL will solicit bids for tenders for a new guidance system based on trains driven by drivers.
HKL says that a new guidance system will allow the expansion of Metro services, as well as more frequent trains. The hope is that a supplier for the guidance system will be chosen in the autumn, and a contract signed by the end of the year.
Lahdenranta estimates that replacing the old guidance system will cost more than EUR 50 million.
Siemens did not want to comment on the matter on Wednesday.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Siemens lashes out at Helsinki over Metro automation dispute (10.5.2012)
Helsinki City Transport still wants automated Metro (4.5.2012)
Back to square one in Helsinki Metro automation project (21.3.2012)