FINNISH RAILWAYS is currently taking delivery of 42 double-deck coaches to expand capacity on its highly successful InterCity services launched in 1989. VR Ltd now operates eight supplementary-fare trains each way per day. Most run inwards to Helsinki in the morning and return in the evening, targeting the day-trip business market.

When launched, the ICs were primarily intended for business travellers, with full restaurant cars and only limited provision for second class. They have since developed into two-class services, and the double-deck coaches are intended to augment the second class accommodation.

Ordered from Transtech in 1997, the vehicles are being delivered at the rate of two per month. 22 were in traffic by April, and the rest will arrive by mid-2001. They will be followed off the Otanmäki production line by a further 50 ordered at the end of last year, and VR has an option for 50 more.

There are two types of vehicle, 70 Ed cars with 113 second-class seats and 22 Eds ’service vehicles’ with accommodation for disabled passengers and families with children. According to Product Manager Teppo Sotavalta, the aim is to develop a ’total service package’ to suit as many different groups as possible. The single-deck seconds have saloons for smokers and for passengers travelling with pets.

The Eds service cars have their entrances just 590mm above rail, with built-in ramps for wheelchair access at one doorway. This opens into a spacious vestibule with a large disabled toilet compartment, wheelchair stowage and a wide doorway into the adjacent saloon where there is space for two or three wheelchairs. The other entrance is geared for passengers with prams, bikes or skis, with stowage space under the stairs and direct access to a mid-level family compartment and a children’s play area on the upper deck; the adjacent accommodation is reserved for families. The mid-level seating at the other end of the car is split into two small compartments for allergy sufferers.

Provision is made in both the Ed and Eds for mobile phone users, with built-in signal boosters in the saloons and special mobile phone booths for private calls. Conventional payphones are also provided, as are power sockets for portable computers.

Most IC services are hauled by Sr2 ’Lok 2000’ Bo-Bo electric locos, of which 20 have been supplied by Adtranz. Following agreement with RHK over future main line electrification, VR ordered a further 20 in December 1998, with an option for another 12. These are also to be assembled in Finland by Rautaruukki’s Transtech division, but at Otanmäki rather than Taivalkoski where the first batch was built.

After 2002, many long-distance services running up to 500 km from Helsinki will be worked by Pendolino S220 trainsets. Following the success of two prototypes introduced on the Helsinki - Turku run in 1995, VR Ltd exercised an option for eight more in December 1997. These are to be assembled by Fiat in Italy, and are scheduled for delivery in 2000-02. The Pendolinos and new InterCity coaches will replace older loco-hauled coaches.

Delivery of the extra Pendolinos will bring benefits on the Turku route too. With the two existing trains each diagrammed to make two round trips a day, they are only timetabled to run at 160 km/h in case they have to be replaced by a loco-hauled set. With 10 S220s available VR will be able to make full use of their 200 km/h capability wherever the track and ATP permit. The double-deckers are designed for 200 km/h operation, and the Sr2s for 230, although the single-deck IC stock is still limited to 160 km/h.

VR expects to place an order later this year for between 12 and 20 lightweight railbuses to operate rural lines. A contract with GEC Alstom Transporte of Spain for 16 cars was cancelled in 1997 after the first vehicles failed to meet the specification, and new tenders were invited at the beginning of this year. Kuitunen says the aim is to sign a new contract in the autumn with deliveries starting in 2001.

CAPTION: Left: Children’s play area on the Eds upper deck

Below: Low-floor entrances provide easy access for passengers in wheelchairs