According to the Greens, Finland's six largest cities need a total of about one billion euros in rail investment and support packages to secure public transport, among other things. The chairman of the Greens, Minister of the Interior Maria Ohisalo, talks about this in an interview with STT.
About half a billion would be needed to offset the loss of ticket and tax revenue due to the corona, and the other half to rail and other public transport development to meet the government’s climate target.
According to Ohisalo, the matter has been discussed within the government. His goal is for decisions to get started soon and for the rest to be made in this year's supplementary budgets. The government is outlining a fourth supplementary budget in the near future.
- It would be a new stimulus money to get the economy back on track. The construction of infrastructure increases employment, whether it is railways or, for example, cycle or footpaths. The best thing about this situation would, of course, be to invest in projects where it would be possible to get the hoe right into the ground.
The largest cities are Helsinki, Espoo, Vantaa, Oulu, Tampere and Turku.
- The situation in public transport is acute, and we must move forward soon. Large cities have suffered the most from the corona, and one big sufferer is public transport. The collapse in ticket revenues and city tax revenues will hit public transport hard, Ohisalo says.
The Greens are not alone with their proposal, as Timo Harakka (sd), the Minister of Transport and Communications, for example, said earlier in the week that he would offer operators more public transport support because of the Korona crisis, because the demand for additional services or underutilization is tough. However, both are needed to avoid congestion in the means of transport.
Without the development of public transport, the emissions target will not be reached
The Greens have wanted to profile themselves in government as an urban party. However, Ohisalo points out that the entire government is committed to halving transport emissions by 2030 compared to 2005 levels.
- Public transport is such a key part that without it we will not reach the emissions target. A certain condition for receiving the support is that the city's public transport itself works and that it will also reduce emissions.
It is also recorded in the government program that the aim is to replace public transport vehicles with lower-emission ones. Cities could use the support provided by the Greens, for example, for new tramways under construction in Tampere and planned at least in Turku and the Helsinki metropolitan area.
Ohisalo does not name the ongoing internal projects in the cities, as they are currently being negotiated.
- There are several projects in big cities, he just says.
In addition to the new tramways, the public has talked about at least the Espoo city line, whose track plan will remain in force until the end of 2023. Its two southernmost tracks would be used for frequent urban train traffic and the two northernmost tracks for faster commuter traffic and long-distance traffic in the direction of Turku.
Decisions on EU subsidies are expected in late summer
Next, the government expects EU support for long-term large-scale rail projects, such as the Turku hour train and the Finland line. The Ministry of Transport is told that support decisions are expected in the late summer.
Ohisalo believes that the Commission's exit from the green stimulus package will help to make mobility in Europe as low-emission and zero-emission as possible.
The Finnish Railways' report on the development of train connections in Eastern Finland was completed on Thursday. According to it, the development of existing lines would be the most profitable, but the new connections through Porvoo would still bring the greatest benefit.
- Investments in track repairs are also important. Operational reliability and speed on existing lines must be ensured, Ohisalo says.
The Greens have highlighted the possibility of getting a night train from Oulu to Stockholm, and the government program also promises to carry out electrification from Kemi via Laurila to Haparanda.
- This has aroused a lot of interest. People’s travel priorities also seem to be in transition at this time.
It's not just about the tracks. Known as an active cyclist, Ohisalo's own dream would be to cycle through Finland to the north of Helsinki.
Congestion charges quickly made possible
The Greens would also fund the development of public transport and light traffic lanes through planned motorway congestion charges. According to Ohisalo, the party's goal is for the legislation to move forward as quickly as possible and to enter into force during this term.
- The most important thing is to enable cities to use congestion charges. Congestion charges are included in the government program, and this law must bring the law into force so that cities can then make their own decisions.
The intention is to allow congestion charges only in areas where you can choose an option other than a car. In practice, it mainly means the metropolitan area.
Ohisalo sees only good things: no one would have to stand in traffic jams, air quality would improve, emissions would decrease and people might move more if cycling and walking became more common. He believes that the cities of the metropolitan area, for example, will seize the opportunity when it becomes possible.
- It is certainly worthwhile for cities to move forward, many people will certainly see that it would be useful.
There are parties on the government who are not known to have been as enthusiastic about congestion charges, but according to Ohisalo, all entries in the government program are still fully valid unless otherwise agreed.
- It has now been said that the economic policy entries in the government program may be new. They are certainly still being negotiated, but everything else is still there as usual.