Frequently asked questions

Questions on the construction and ownership of the West Metro

Why was the completion of the first phase delayed?

It was delayed because not enough time had been reserved for the final work and commissioning stages. The West Metro is not only Finland’s largest infrastructure project, but also a challenging HVAC and electricity and automation project. There was no previous experience of a commissioning stage for a project of this magnitude and complexity. The commissioning phase, including testing and regulatory inspections, proceeded smoothly, but required considerably more time and effort from all parties than anticipated.

Read also: This is how the first phase was built

Why are the platforms shorter on the West Metro section compared to the old metro line?

Länsimetro is a company jointly owned by the cities of Helsinki and Espoo. Helsinki decided on metro automation in 2006. The project plan for phase one of the West Metro was completed in 2008. The project plan approved by the owners, i.e. the cities of Espoo and Helsinki, also defined the platform length. In connection with the project plan, the City of Helsinki commissioned capacity reports, based on which it proved possible to change the length of the platforms to two car pairs. In practice, this means a reduction in the length of the platform from 135 metres to 90 metres.

The decision-making history can be found on the City of Helsinki’s website (in Finnish).

It would not be useful to lengthen the platforms on the western section of the metro or to operate with longer trains as the lengthening would lead to extensive structural changes, and in many respects, almost to reconstruction as, for example, the dimensioning of the escape routes would have to be increased considerably. In addition, the lengthening of the platforms and operating with longer trains would involve the renewal of maintenance facilities, fire doors, crossovers, points, guidance systems, etc. at the stations. Such construction work would be extensive, and the metro service would probably have to be discontinued for several years.

The service ability and capacity of the metro can be improved, for instance, by shortening the interval between trains – this can be done by improving the ATC systems. Metro automation is an internationally common way of increasing capacity. In the shorter term, metro congestion can be relieved using lighter measures, such as supplementary bus service.

Response to letters to the editor: Longer platforms not a feasible solution

Will the trains be able to accommodate all passengers?

The new metro control system was introduced in December 2012. The new signal box enables service at 2.5-minute intervals, while the minimum interval was previously 4 minutes. In August 2016, HKL adopted a 2.5-minute service frequency.

As the West Metro services began, the entire metro system was transferred to 90-metre trains comprising two car pairs. During peak hours, the trains will run at 2.5-minute intervals, which means that 96 cars will be in service during the course of one hour, instead of the current 90. This will improve the service standard as trains run more frequently.

Additional capacity is needed as the number of users increases.  HKL is responsible for metro traffic and HSL is responsible for planning and acquiring public transport for its operating area.

What is the role of Länsimetro Oy in the phase one metro traffic?

Länsimetro Oy’s task is to build, own, maintain and develop the metro system, tracks and stations from Ruoholahti westwards. The transport operator and developer of the rail section and stations from Ruoholahti eastward is the City of Helsinki, more precisely Helsinki City Transport, HKL.

As the metro system and infrastructure owner, Länsimetro Oy’s task is to ensure that the West Metro’s metro system and its stations provide a safe commuting environment throughout their lifecycle.

Länsimetro Oy handed over the rail line and stations to HKL on 3 October 2017 to start the service. However, the rail line and stations, including their technical systems, remain in the ownership of Länsimetro Oy. HKL reports to Länsimetro Oy on the use of the rail line and stations and related service and maintenance tasks as agreed.

HSL (Helsinki Region Transport) plans and procures public transport in its operating area, approves its fare and ticketing systems and ticket prices, is responsible for its marketing and travel advice, organises ticket sales, and is responsible for ticket inspection. In addition to the service and maintenance of the rail line and stations, HKL is responsible for metro traffic.

When will the metro line to Kivenlahti be completed?

According to the project plan, the Matinkylä–Kivenlahti section will be handed over to the operator in the course of 2023. Espoo’s City Council approved an adjustment to the project plan on 19 March 2018.

How far along is the second phase construction work?

Construction contracts are currently in progress on all the five stations and the rail line of the West Metro Matinkylä–Kivenlahti section. Excavation work ended in 2018, coming in under budget by EUR 14 million.

The construction of a metro station begins with frame erection work from the bottom of the tunnel and then proceeds with work on HVAC and electricity and the installation of several demanding technical systems. In the final stage, all the stations’ surfaces will be finished.  The frame erection work has been completed, and all construction sites proceeded to HVAC and electricity work at the end of 2019. The work stages are described in more detail in the Construction section of the website. The construction of the Sammalvuori depot has progressed to work on HVAC and electricity.

In a tunnel, bearing courses and concrete structures are built first. Work on various structures is followed by HVAC and electricity installations. Towards the final stage, base ballasting and blocks are placed at the bottom of the rail, after which it is no longer possible to drive wheeled vehicles in the tunnel. Lastly, the tracks are laid, and the rail current system is installed to supply power to the track. On the rail line, the most important work stages underway are formwork, reinforcement, concreting and HVAC and electricity.

Why is the metro being built all the way to Kivenlahti?

The metro is an investment providing a sustainable basis for urbanisation-driven growth far into the future. By 2050, Espoo will grow by 70,000 new inhabitants. High quality public transport that enables everyday life to run smoothly will create the preconditions for growth in an economically, socially and environmentally sustainable way. The metro, built underground, will enable the efficient use of land above ground. The travel chain concept will be realised in the best possible way, with services being located precisely where the flow of people is.

What will the second phase cost?

The Espoo City Council approved an adjusted project plan on 19 March 2018. The adjusted cost estimate for construction is EUR 1,159 million. The cost of the project also includes cost increases and financing costs during construction. The costs for the excavation work of the Matinkylä-Kivenlahti section were approximately EUR 14 million lower than budgeted. Up-to-date information on costs can be found in the Investments section of the website.

What will the journey time be from Kivenlahti to Helsinki?

Estimated travel times:

Kivenlahti–Matinkylä: about 10 minutes
Kivenlahti–Tapiola: about 15 minutes
Kivenlahti–Rautatientori: about 29 minutes
Kivenlahti–Hakaniemi: about 31 minutes
Kivenlahti–Itäkeskus: about 43 minutes

Could the second phase of the West Metro be built above ground rather than underground?

Both options were studied during the project planning phase. However, the decision has been taken to build the Matinkylä-Kivenlahti section underground, and excavation has been completed for both tunnels and all of the stations.

A modern metro station occupies around 20,000 square metres. Most of the premises consist of technical spaces that are invisible to passengers. An underground metro line and its stations leave space on the surface for residential and other construction, for example. The City of Espoo is developing and growing near the metro stations, and the area above ground is needed for the expanding city. The metro line runs through a densely built residential area and the stations are located close to other services at convergence points for people. The surface option would involve extensive and costly construction work, such as bridges and tunnels, in the street network. In addition, traffic flows above ground would be disrupted, causing congestion for other forms of traffic and impeding the flow of foot traffic and bicycling. It has even been difficult to find space in the urban environment for the above-ground elements, i.e. the entrances and shafts, of the underground construction. In addition, it is considerably easier to provide park and ride facilities and bus terminals for underground stations than for above-ground solutions.

An underground metro is more reliable than an above-ground one. The conditions remain consistent, regardless of the season. In addition, it would not be possible to build parts of the line above ground, because this would add to the number of tunnel entrances. Open tunnel entrances would make temperature control more difficult. Height differences would also be a problem, due to the line geometry of the metro.

An above-ground metro line for phase two would run through a forest habitat for flying squirrels. The construction of a surface metro line would not have been possible in such areas.

Where can I get additional information on tickets and the metro service to Matinkylä?

HSL (Helsinki Region Transport) plans and procures public transport in its operating area, approves its fare and ticketing systems and ticket prices, is responsible for its marketing and passenger information, organises ticket sales, and is responsible for ticket inspection. Thus, HSL answers questions concerning passenger traffic. HKL (Helsinki City Transport) is responsible for the metro service.

The West Metro project is responsible for building the rail line and stations of both the first phase (Ruoholahti–Matinkylä) and the second phase (Matinkylä–Kivenlahti). The rail line and stations of the first phase were handed over to HKL on 3 October 2017 to start the service. However, Länsimetro Oy still owns the stations and rail line. HKL is responsible for metro traffic, service and maintenance of the stations and rail line, as well as for keeping the owner (Länsimetro Oy) updated. HKL operates two metro lines from Vuosaari to Matinkylä and from Mellunmäki to Tapiola. HKL also owns the metro trains, trams and city bikes. The metro transport operations are ordered by HSL.

What will the Urheilupuisto station entrances be like?

The Urheilupuisto station was designed to be implemented as a station with a single entrance – the location of the entrance on the east-west axis was determined in view of ensuring smooth people flows during large sports events, in particular, when the station must safely serve considerably higher volumes of customers than normal. In January 2019, a decision was taken to also open another entrance, a route originally planned as an emergency exit from the Jousenkaari direction. Converting the emergency exit into an official route will require changes related to accessibility, for example. Plans for the changes have been prepared, and the alteration work began in autumn 2019.

What did the regulatory inspections related to the commissioning phase involve?

Espoo’s and Helsinki’s Rescue Departments have approved the security systems based on test results. Subsequently, Espoo’s and Helsinki’s building authorities have approved the opening of the stations and rail tunnels to passenger traffic. HKL has ensured that the track engineering security systems, including semaphore systems and indicators, are working properly. In practice, the building authorities had the task of approving hundreds of thousands of electronic documents. The rescue authorities carried out their own safety inspections of the metro. On 22 September 2017, the building inspection authorities approved the opening of the metro for passenger traffic.

What is tested before the metro is opened to the public?

Before the metro is opened to the public, tests and joint test runs are required to ensure that it runs as planned. The suppliers of each system test their systems before the final testing phase, i.e. the joint test run. The metro comprises 52 different systems. In addition, Länsimetro Oy conducted operational trials. After this, the stations entered the joint test run phase, which took several days to complete for each station. The joint test run ensured that the metro is safe to use and that all systems interact smoothly. The joint test runs began at the Aalto University station in October 2016 and continued at other stations throughout winter and spring. Test runs were completed at Niittykumpu and Matinkylä in May 2017. Information about the project’s schedule has been communicated without delay as the testing progressed, in light of the information available.

How has accessibility for the visually impaired been addressed at the West Metro stations?

The West Metro station platforms have the same edge warning markings as Helsinki’s current metro stations. Länsimetro Oy invited representatives of the visually impaired to participate in the station’s accessibility inspection in the summer of 2017. On this occasion, representatives of the visually impaired stated that the warning stripe should be made more effective at both old and new metro stations.

For the safety of visually impaired passengers, HKL and Länsimetro Oy have now agreed that the yellow warning stripe along the platform edge at a distance of one metre should be enhanced with an additional stripe or strip that can be felt by touch.

All old renovated metro stations and new West Metro stations also have extensive embossed and fluorescent floor signs for visually impaired passengers.

Further information:

Länsimetro rakentaa blog (in Finnish)