More passengers than expected using new Helsinki-Lahti rail line
Women dominate among regular travellers
Apart from a few empty seats here and there, the Tuesday morning 8:40 commuter train from Mäntsälä to Helsinki is nearly full - of women. Some read, others sleep. Anna-Kaarina Karvonen knits with concentration.
Karvonen says she became aware a long time ago that most people who use the capital area's commuter trains are women.
"I used to live in Järvenpää and went to school in Helsinki. I noticed how other women did knitting on the train and decided to give it a try."
"Sometimes I do Sudoku instead."
At times a busy motorway running alongside the track can be seen from the train windows. That's where the men are, someone suggests.
A couple of men are also found riding the train, which consists of two coaches. Kimmo Turunen commutes daily from his home near the Mäntsälä station to work in a bank in Helsinki. "This is so effortless compared to driving", he comments from behind the latest issue of Reader's Digest.
Turunen plans on purchasing yet another monthly train pass even at the end of October, when the half-price introductory rate is no longer available.
The Finnish rail company VR's introductory campaign was a severe blow to the competing coach services. "A monthly VR pass allows passengers to travel from Lahti to Helsinki - a distance of a hundred kilometres - for EUR 2.95, whereas a bus fare for the same journey costs EUR 9.50", regional director Tuomo Kojo from the Finnish Bus Transport Union explains.
The bus services' trump cards are the number of departures and the number of stops.
"Let's wait and see until the VR introductory offer ceases", says managing director Timo Turunen of the coach firm Sukulan Linja.
Turunen estimates that between ten and fifteen per cent of their clients have switched over to VR since the opening of the new rail line.
The VR camp is rejoicing over the success of the new rail line. "The number of passengers has matched and exceeded our expectations", says Kari-Pekka Rosenholm, head of Local Traffic at VR.
At the moment, the greatest hindrance to even larger passenger figures is the modest number of departures. Commuter Miia Nikkinen, for one, resorts to taking a bus back to Mäntsälä in the evenings.
VR emphasises that the number of departures depends on decisions at the Ministry of Transport and Communications, who have purchased the rights to the new track.
VR has announced that it does have the resources and the rolling-stock to facilitate more frequent departures back and forth, if the demand is there.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Inauguration of new rail line to change nearly all train schedules (1.9.2006)
New Kerava-Lahti railway shortens travel times to Eastern Finland by up to one hour (30.11.2005)