MTR Express train (Photo VR)

SWEDEN: Finnish national train operator VR Group has agreed to acquire MTR Nordic’s Swedish open access passenger business MTR Express.

MTRX launched open access services between Stockholm and Göteborg in 2015. It now runs 18 services a day using six Stadler Flirt X74 EMUs and with 120 staff.

VR says the operations are profitable, with a 30% market share on the 455 km route and revenue of SKr350m in 2022.

Swedish regulatory approval for the transaction announced on February 8 is expected by the end of May.

‘We started MTRX in 2015 with a conviction that it is possible to offer Swedish train travellers an even better train experience, and over the past nine years we have time and again proven just that’, said Caroline Åstrand, CEO of MTR Nordic. ‘The sale is a commercial decision in line with the overall business goals, with the aim of continuing the positive development of MTRX. We will now prepare for a smooth transition with the passengers’ best interests as the highest priority.’

DNB Markets has acted as financial adviser and Cederquist legal adviser to MTR Nordic. 

The latest announcement came ahead of the March 3 termination of MTR’s contract to operate Stockholm’s Pendeltåg commuter services. Last year MTR and transport authority SL reached an agreement to end the contract early, with MTR saying it had ’difficulty obtaining the financial conditions to deliver traffic of a sufficiently high quality’.

Strengthening competitiveness

MTR Express

VR Chief Executive Elisa Markula said the acquisition ’strengthens the competitiveness of our existing business both in Sweden and in Finland’.

VR acquired Arriva’s Swedish regional train contract operating activities in 2022, and the acquisition of MTR Express will take it into the country’s long-distance market.

Markula said ’the market for market-based long-distance traffic in Sweden is very attractive — and it is about twice the size of Finland’s. The modal share of rail transport is double.’

MTRX is ‘an independent entity with high levels of customer experience and employee satisfaction’, which ‘operates as a challenger in a competitive market’ and has won awards for innovation, she added.

VR would benefit from MTRX’s experience of operating in a pioneering competitive long-distance market, strengthening its position as its home market opens in Finland.

‘Together we can create even better services for Nordic train passengers’, said Markula.