VR Transpoint train (Photo: VR/Juho Kuva)

FINLAND: Minister of Transport & Communications Timo Harakka has described as ‘unreasonable’ the European Commission’s proposal to require the use of 1 435 mm gauge throughout the TEN-T rail network, arguing that Finland should be regarded as a special case.

Following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, on July 27 the Commission published an updated version of its December 2021 proposal for the revision of the TEN-T Regulation of 2013.

The updated proposal would require the use of the 1 435 mm European standard gauge for all new lines on the TEN-T network, and calls for a migration plan for converting existing lines. There would be an exception for routes where a cost-benefit analysis showed that regauging would not be justified. The 1 600 mm gauge network in Ireland would be specifically exempt, as the country has no land connection to other EU member states.

Harakka said Finland, which uses the 1 524 mm gauge inherited from the Russian empire at independence in 1917, should also be given an exemption.

‘Finland does not accept these changes to the rail gauge, and I believe that our views will be heard during further discussions’, he said. ‘It is quite clear that Finland’s special conditions must be taken into account and our existing rail gauge must be maintained. Changing the rail gauge would not be economically or operationally feasible. Decisions of this importance should not be made hastily; instead, their impacts should be properly scrutinised.’

The Commission has also proposed that the final sections of all cross-border routes between the EU and Russia/Belarus should be transferred from the TEN-T core network to the second-tier ‘comprehensive’ network, which would put back the target date for completion from 2030 to 2050.

This would also impact various routes in Finland. However, Harakka insisted that ‘as any proposed changes must not undermine the position of eastern Finland, we cannot accept this amendment either’.