Helsinki Ring Rail Line

Last week something fabulous happened in Helsinki region – the Ring Rail Line has been opened. It’s the biggest and the most important project of Finnish Railways since opening of Kerava – Lahti railway in 2006.

I decided to cycle along the new line to see how it looks like and what kind of city will evolve along it.

New line is 18 km long, it has 5 stations, 23 bridges and 8 km of tunnels. It extends the current City Rail Line, running through Western Helsinki and Western Vantaa, passes through the airport and merges to the Main Line in Eastern Vantaa.

The line will change transportation patterns not only around new stations, but in all connected areas. I decided to start in Malminkartano. New houses are being built there, which is awesome – more people will have possibility to live near train station.

Malminkartano station is located inside the rock and its left platform is unique because it serves also as a bicycle way.

By the way, this summer Finnish Railways put some flowers on the stations, nice gesture!

Helsinki ends and Vantaa (the neighboring city) starts. It still has a long way to transform its appearance to more city-like and more people-friendly. A square should never look like this.

A good excuse for using car used to be “I am working too far, near the airport”. Now those people have a good alternative and hopefully will change their transportation habits. Then such a huge parkings will become obsolete and people will have again some greenery and a place to enjoy in their yards.

Louhela railway station.

Martinlaakso railway station.

Here there are also some new houses close to the rail station. Wonderful! But who the hell invented this dull brick fence?

Vantaankoski railway station. It used to be the terminus station, but now everything just begins here :)

Places just next to Vantaankoski still look like the middle of nowhere, but the city most probably will expand there in the future.

Vehkala railway station also looks like being built inside of nothing, but this is exactly the right way to build a city – first transportation, right after then houses. People, who have train station nearby, are less likely to buy a car than people for whom the railway station is promised after a couple of years.

Next station is Kivistö. A brand new district will be built soon around it. It seems that everything is still heavily under construction, but the station itself is done with all 3 entrances.

Not a piece of art, but at least not a concrete :)

People already use the square near the station. Hopefully it will become a cozy one and will attract more people.

P-train is approaching Kivistö station. The station is built in the rock, so it’s not really an underground one.

Selfie :) All stations have elevators.

People are studying the timetable. It’s quite easy: P-trains are going to the airport via Vantaankoski and back to Helsinki via Hiekkaharju and I-trains are doing the opposite. Trains run every 10 minutes during daytime, every 15 minutes in the evening and on weekends. Late night and early morning trains run with 30 minutes interval. There is no service between 1 and 5 AM, at least for now. New timetable will take effect in the middle of August.

There were quite many people at Kivistö station, despite the Sunday evening and the whole district still being under construction.

This is how Kivistö looks like now.

Is there any life in the yards? Not yet.

Because the whole area looks like Wild West, there is chaos also with parking on sidewalks.

Self-driving bus. It’s used as a shuttle between Kivistö station and real estate fair nearby. Looks like a toy now (operates on the closed bicycle road, without any obstacles or surprises), but who knows how fast the technology will advance? I would prefer to see automatic buses, because they are much more polite to cyclists than regular ones.

When a project like Ring Rail Line is being built, it’s crucial to build bicycle roads at the same time or at least to make a strict reservation for them. When I first read about Kvartsiraitti, I thought that everything will be fine in Kivistö. A paved bicycle way, going along the railway, having no same-level intersections with cars and separated by kerb from pedestrians – what could be more desirable? Well, Kvartsiraitti is quite good indeed, but it has one “tiny” problem – it doesn’t lead anywhere.

The upper sign means “there is a dead end for cars, but pass-through way for cyclists”. Well, that’s not true, paved road becomes a trunk road. Then it becomes a path and finally it disappears before the river.

In order to cross the river, one should come back again and make a long detour:

The detour is harmful, but at least the landscape in nice :)

This is the place where Ring Line crosses the river. It’s a pity that the road was built as well, taking a part of the train’s advantage. It seems that many cities prioritize public transport, walking and cycling only on the paper, but not in the real construction.

Ring Line goes after the bridge underground and good so! This part of Vantaa is quite industrial and there is nothing really to see.

That’s madness – this parking belongs to the airport, but it’s located far away from it. People drive there to leave their cars, take the free bus and go to the airport. Why not to leave the car at home and come by bus straight to the airport?

An underpass just before Aviapolis railway station. There is a brand new road on the top, but cyclists and pedestrians are served in the last round.

Southern entrance of the station.

As you can see, there is pretty much nothing around.

But soon they promise to build “the most upshifting area”. How it looks like?

A man is pushing his bike because somebody forgot to build the bicycle way. There is some unfinishedness around, even if huge skyscrapers are already done. People are drinking something and listening noise of the motor traffic.

A woman is running in the orange reflective jacket, because the street is too unsafe.

Another woman is making selfie. She is upstairs because in the skyscraper cities there is not so much space left for people on the ground, so that they are forced to spend their time on the roofs, terraces and balconies.

And instead of a lovely boulevard, a wide road with a huge crossing in the middle. Just to remember pedestrians that they are on the road and, therefore, can’t feel safe and do whatever they want.

If I would be the city of Vantaa, I wouldn’t pay for such a crappy advertising even a cent. But what if this is not the ignorance of designers? Maybe it’s the city they are really building up? This thought scares me.

Let’s go down to the Aviapolis station. There is no ban (at least for now) to use escalators with a bike, cool! There are elevators too, as I said, but they are so slow. Moreover, Aviapolis station is only 40 meters deep, but has an intermediate floor. This means that you need 2 escalators or elevators to get from the street to the platform.

The station is new and shining, but its interiors are quite simple.

Everything is working, no traces of unfinished construction.

The Airport station will be opened on 10th July. There is a temporary bus between Aviapolis station and airport terminals. Some people and media scoffed at “the airport line without station in airport”. I see no problem with it, the temporary bus connection is well-organized and runs smoothly. And the Ring Line serves not only the airport, but tens of thousands of commuters as well.

Another stupid critic towards Ring Line was that the train stops at every station, so it’s not an express line only to the airport. And that trip duration is roughly the same as it used to be with airport bus – 30 minutes.

Well, people, aren’t you those who voted current politics? Politics, who would never approve a more expensive public transport project. Politics, who would continue to rely on private cars so heavily that the road travel between city center and airport will take more than 30 minutes in a few years due to growing traffic jams.

And the last consideration – normal airport train is maybe not so nice like an express, but what’s more important – to create a good impression for tourists and to not be worse than Stockholm, Oslo and other cities (which have express airport trains) or just to create a good transportation system for you and for your city?

Northern entrance of Aviapolis station. Everything is still under construction.

Trains followed their tunnels and I followed the roads along the airport. Many places in Vantaa still look like this. Hopefully Ring Line will be only the first thing to change in Vantaa. It would have much more effect in combination with well-developed system of on-ground public transport and comfortable bicycle roads.

After a while I met the Ring Line again. It comes out from tunnel in Ilola, where a place is reserved for possible station.

I see two things in this picture: one good and one bad. Guess what are they?

And then I pressed by mistake the wrong button on the camera and all further pictures have the resolution of 640*480 only. Sorry for that.

We are approaching the last station from those built specially for Ring Line – Leinelä. This place, by the way, tells that Finland is a civilized country, even if some things are still too car-centric. There are two ways to cross the street to reach the station – using overpass or just crossing the street using the crossway. In the developing country there would be only one option (overpass), which consumes more time and is especially hated by older people, people with prams and bicycles.

Another entrance to Leinelä.

The area around also has a multitude of new houses, built having Ring Line in mind. Here, however, everything looks more tidy and finished than in Kivistö.

An I-train approaching the station.

Bastards! They used railway overpass construction as an excuse to rebuild the intersection in a way that this street can’t be crossed in one turn anymore. Now you need to wait for the green three (!) times.

This is how it was before. What I said about civilized country? Oh, I hope that this is only an unique and sad exception.

This is the place where Ring Line connects with Main Line (you can see an InterCity train running on it).

Ring Line is a great thing indeed and it’s definitely worth € 700M spent on it. Vantaa, the Northern neighbor of Helsinki, just became a more modern and a more real city. Now it’s Espoo’s turn (Espoo is the Western neighbor of Helsinki; cities will be connected with each other by a metro line in 2016).

Just some nice places in Vantaa on the way back home.

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