Several members of the public have written letters to the editor of the Helsingin Sanomat newspaper proposing ways to ease rush-hour congestion on the metro (Hannu Valta on 16 November, Tapio Pento on 27 November and Kauko Korpela on 30 November). Ensuring the high standard and sufficient capacity of metro services is vital for us. However, lengthening the platforms at West Metro stations or operating services using longer trains are not feasible solutions to the problem.
The current metro stations are not just tracks and a platform in between but a complex entity consisting of more than 50 systems. The ability to evacuate underground stations efficiently is a key consideration. The emergency exits (stairs and escalators) of the current West Metro stations have been designed so as to enable the safe evacuation of two full 90-metre trains arriving at the station simultaneously. Operating 135-metre trains at the stations would require a 50% increase in the emergency exits’ capacity. This would require major structural changes, and many stations would need to be practically rebuilt.
Lengthening platforms and operating services with longer trains would also require redesigning the stations’ technical facilities, fire doors, crossovers, points, signage, etc. This would be a laborious process that would probably require discontinuing the operation of metro services for a period of several years. The solution would be extremely challenging and expensive to implement.
However, there are other ways to increase the standard of service and capacity. More frequent services can be operated if passenger numbers increase. Helsinki City Transport, the Helsinki Regional Transport Authority and Länsimetro Oy are about to begin a feasibility study on the best way to increase the number of services. One way to increase the number of services would be to adopt more sophisticated traffic control systems. Automation has been used successfully to increase the capacity of underground systems around the world.
Another solution in addition to increasing the number of services could be to extend the line that currently terminates in Tapiola further west. The Cities of Espoo and Helsinki, together with the Helsinki Regional Transport Authority, are exploring this option as well as the possibility of improving the standard of service by building a new turnaround track to the west.
In the short term, congestion on the metro can be eased by less drastic measures such as supplementary bus services. The Helsinki Regional Transport Authority has been operating a bus service between Kamppi and Espoonlahti since October.
Tero Anttila, Director of Public Transport Planning Department, Helsinki Regional Transport Authority
Ville Lehmuskoski, Managing Director, Helsinki City Transport
Ville Saksi, CEO, Länsimetro Oy