Question of length of Metro trains and station platforms resurfaces
Demands are increasing for longer platforms for the Western Metro extension. Espoo trusts in shorter trains running more frequently, while Helsinki does not
Tapio Hölttä, the head of Metro transport at Helsinki City Transport (HKL), calls into question the short platforms of the Western Metro stations currently under construction.
“If the matter were addressed in a situation where nothing had been built or designed just yet, the longer platform length would be a noteworthy option”, Hölttä says.
Spaces for 90-metre-long metro station platforms are currently being dug in Espoo.
In Helsinki the platform length is one and a half times this, at 135 metres.
The dispute over the length of trains and platforms has continued for a year. In the course of the summer the debate has become livelier also on the opinion pages of Helsingin Sanomat.
Some of the HKL Board members are calling for the lengthening of the stations of the Western Metro. Behind the move is the concern that during rush hours the number of commuters in Eastern Helsinki will exceed the capacity of the trains, which will necessarily have to be shorter.
“Nowhere else in the world would a metro system be impaired in such a way”, argues HKL Board member Kari Kälviä (Green League), who supports the longer platforms.
Board members Ari Järvinen (National Coalition Party) and Ari Lehtinen (SDP) are also in favour of the more extensive excavations. In their view, the capital Helsinki has not had any influence on the question of the platform length.
The Western Metro is pulling in the other direction: in its view the short stations are still the right solution.
Originally the cities agreed on the short stations. The city councils of both Helsinki and Espoo endorsed the Western Metro project plan in 2008.
The shorter stations were opted for because with the automated metro the trains could run at more frequent intervals. When the trains are running more often, the units themselves as well as the station platforms can be shorter.
“For several years this was taken for granted. But now that there were some hitches with the contract regarding the automated trains this issue bobbed back to the surface”, Hölttä reckons.
In his opinion, however, the platform dispute reappeared “slightly too late”.
The plan is for the automated Metro trains to run every two and a half minutes during the rush hour. Later, the pace can be quickened even further.
The sceptics nevertheless worry that the automated Metro will not be able to run without glitches.
“Naturally, the shorter the departure intervals the higher the risk of disruptions. And such disruptions will be increasingly difficult to fix”, Hölttä confirms.
However, Hölttä points out that similar metro systems are in operation in the wider world.
Matti Kokkinen, CEO of Länsimetro, the company that is building the western extension of the system, dismisses the claims that the shorter trains will be too cramped.
He suspects that such comments stem from ignorance.
”The capacity will not be halved. It will increase. Later, when the departure intervals are further reduced the capacity will increase quite considerably.”
According to Kokkinen, the lengthening of the platforms would be unnecessary ”as it is known that the automated metro will be a success.”
The Helsinki City Board has called for an examination into the adequacy of the shorter trains. The traffic research and planning firm Strafica Oy should deliver its report towards the end of August.
In the decades to come, the passenger volumes of the Metro will be affected for example by the building of the Kruunuvuori bridge and the new residential neighbourhoods in Östersundom and Sipoo.
According to the findings by Strafica, with the 2.5-minute intervals between trains the upper limit of the capacity of the short Metro trains would be reached by 2035.
With 3-minute intervals, during the rush hour, the Metro would be able to transport even fewer passengers than it does at present.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Espoo City Council approves project plan of Western Metro extension to Kivenlahti (12.6.2012)
Helsinki cancels Metro automation project (18.5.2012)
Official website for Länsimetro (Western Metro Extension)