THE LAST rail was laid on September 28 to complete the 74 km cut-off between Kerava and Lahti in Finland. Work on the project began in October 2002, and the line is expected to open for revenue operation in September 2006.

Partially funded by Russia and the EU, the €331m cut-off will shorten the Helsinki - St Petersburg route, where high speed trains are due to start operating in 2008.

Built for infrastructure authority RHK by Finnish contractor Lemminkäinen, the line has two stations at Haarajoki and Hakosilta and 76 bridges. The 1520mm gauge route is being electrified at 25 kV 50Hz.

From 2008, the journey time between Helsinki and St Petersburg will be cut to 3h 45min, compared to 5h 15min taken by the existing three loco-hauled trains. The timing will be reduced further to 3h from 2011 when RHK expects to complete the upgrading of the Lahti - Luumäki section.

VR is investing €566m on the upgrading project, and RZD is contributing €1·1bn plus €30m to €40m for new rolling stock.

  • Having taken delivery of the 16th of 18 Pendolino trainsets from Alstom, VR introduced a Pendolino service between Joensuu and Helsinki on November 7, coupling at Kouvola with another from Savo. VR's 17th Pendolino is being fitted out by Talgo, and the final set will be delivered next year.