An estimated 75,000 people a day have boarded trains at the eight new stations added to Helsinki Metro in November, reveals Tero Anttila, the head of public transport planning at Helsinki Region Transport (HSL).
He predicts that the daily number of boardings on the western extension of the metro network will creep up to 80,000 later this week.
“Last week’s Wednesday, Thursday and Friday were the first days […] when the feeder system was working. But at the time school-aged children were still on their [winter] holidays, as were many others,” explains Anttila.
“And because you’re talking about passenger boardings, the number of users is naturally almost two times as high if you add those who have gotten off the trains.”
HSL initially predicted that approximately 60,000 passengers a day would be boarding trains at the new stations in Helsinki and Espoo
The commencement of services on the western extension and subsequent discontinuation of direct bus services between Espoo and Helsinki have lengthened commute times for many residents of Espoo. The metro system experienced severe congestions between Tapiola and Matinkylä, Espoo, on Monday, while a signalling control malfunction suspended the services entirely for over an hour on Tuesday.
Anttila admits that new measures will have to be introduced to ensure the smooth operation of trains if the passenger numbers rise sharply.
HSL, however, has only a few options at its disposal.
“We can’t lengthen the trains because the platforms [cannot accommodate longer trains]. Increasing the frequency of metro services is difficult and would require automation, which was called off three years ago. Automation won’t be resolved until the end of the 2020s, at the earliest,” he explains.
He reminds that decisions about the platform lengths were made with the assumption that the automation of the metro would be completed and it would be able to operate the trains on shorter frequencies.
In spite of the initial difficulties, HSL has stated that it is not yet considering re-commencing direct bus services from Espoo to Kamppi, Helsinki, for example.
“That’d be expensive. Tapiola has yet to be fully utilised as a feeder station due to ongoing renovations. That’ll alleviate the situation one year from now. The more immediate questions include could we take better advantage of Niittykumpu and Urheilupuisto,” tells Anttila.
“This is still in its early stages. Once the situation has stabilised, and we see where the passenger numbers settle, how passengers are distributed between the stations and how the stations are used at peak hours, that’s when we can start having these conversations.”