Länsimetro (English: Western Metro, Swedish: Västmetron) is an extension to the Helsinki Metro system. The grand opening for the long awaited extension was held on 18 November 2017. Länsimetro extends the system's two lines, M1 and M2, from central Helsinki, Finland, to the neighbouring city of Espoo. The new stretch continues the lines from the existing Ruoholahti station via the island of Lauttasaari, the Aalto University Otaniemi campus, and Tapiola, the terminus of line M2. M1 continues further east to Matinkylä. Unlike previous extensions to the Helsinki Metro system, Länsimetro runs entirely under ground. The second phase of the construction will continue the line further west to Kivenlahti.
Final approval for a 13.5-kilometre (8.4 mi) route was granted on 4 April 2007, and the construction began in November 2009. In February 2014, rock blasting was complete, and the fitting out of the tunnels and construction of the stations was started. The extension was planned to open in August 2016 but was delayed until November 2017.
The first designs for a metro system in Helsinki, made in the 1950s, already contained lines to Espoo. After the two forks of the metro line in eastern Helsinki had been completed in 1998, the city of Helsinki continued to pursue the Länsimetro proposal, but the city of Espoo continued to reject it until the early 2000s.
Espoo is the second most populous city in Finland (after Helsinki), currently served by roads, bus transport, and commuter trains. It is connected to Helsinki by the Rantarata coastal railway and by two motorways: Finnish national road 1 (Turun moottoritie, to Turku) in the middle and the Western Highway (the Länsiväylä) in the south, near the coast. As the primary passageway between southern Espoo and central Helsinki, the Länsiväylä has been repeatedly enlarged to cope with congestion, but is still seeing chronic traffic jams in the morning rush hours. Widening the Länsiväylä has not solved the traffic jams, but has instead only moved them closer to the centre of Helsinki (see also Downs–Thomson paradox).
Since the 1990s, the Finnish state and the city of Helsinki had been willing to finance a part of the Länsimetro project and prepared to commence construction. However, Espoo opposed the project for a long time, mainly because of the cost: the state had only agreed to pay 30% of the costs, while Espoo wanted it to contribute at least 70%.
In 1997, Helsinki made an official proposal to Espoo to construct the Länsimetro. A year later, on 8 December 1998, the Espoo city council decided to only support extending the line to Tapiola, rejecting a continuation to Matinkylä and to Kivenlahti. On 16 February 1999, the city council changed its mind, and voted 48 to 18 in support of building the extension to Matinkylä. (These decisions did not yet authorize construction. In June 2012, Espoo was keen on continuing the line from Matinkylä to Kivenlahti as soon as possible, wishing to commence the construction of this second phase even before the first phase enters service.)
The issue of the extension was reawakened in 2002, when the Helsinki Metropolitan Area Council (YTV) was writing a new master plan for public transportation in the Helsinki area. Counter to the view taken by the Espoo city council, YTV prioritised the Länsimetro over constructing a light rail line (an express tram) between Helsinki and Espoo. A compromise solution was reached: an investigation into the alternative of constructing such a light rail line was added to the plan, with a proposed construction schedule from 2010 to 2020. (See the subsection Controversy and alternatives, below.)
On 25 September 2006, the Espoo city council approved constructing the Länsimetro by a vote of 45 to 19. In its decision, the council set a number of conditions for the project:
- The Finnish state must commit to financing the Länsimetro extension all the way to Kivenlahti.
- The existing heavy railway line between Leppävaara and Espoo Centre should be widened from double track to triple track, in conjunction with the Länsimetro project.
- The orbital Jokerilinja bus line should be converted to a light rail line/tram as soon as possible.
- The orbital Kehä I ring road should be improved.
- The orbital Kehä II ring road should be extended into Helsinki via Vihdintie to Hämeenlinnanväylä.
After the construction decision by the Espoo city council, allowing city taxes to be used for the project, critics of the decision worried that such a large construction project could conceivably bankrupt the city, and sued the city in the Supreme Administrative Court of Finland on a charge of "neglect in the decision-making". Since administrative courts cannot rule on the substance of the decision, only the formal procedure was questioned. The court rejected the complaint.
Länsimetro Oy and Helsinki's decision
In June 2007, the cities of Espoo and Helsinki jointly founded a company called Länsimetro Oy (in English, "Western Metro Ltd.") to construct the extension. Espoo owns 72% of the company's stock and Helsinki owns 28%. Matti Kokkinen was appointed as the company's CEO. Following the controversies related to the delay of opening of the first phase in August 2016, Ville Saksi replaced Kokkinen as the new CEO on 14 November 2016.
On 11 November 2009, the Helsinki city council approved constructing the Länsimetro. Construction started on 24 November 2009. Judicial complaints and appeals postponed the start for a year or so, but all were rejected by the Supreme Administrative Court. Indeed, As of June 2012[update], Finnish courts have rejected all charges made against the extension.
Controversy and alternatives
In 2002, a joint study by the city of Helsinki, the city of Espoo, and the Ministry of Transport and Communications compared the impact of the metro extension with that of building a bus rapid transit system. The running costs of the systems were estimated to be roughly equivalent. The metro extension would reduce emissions in Helsinki, but feeder buses would increase them in Espoo. The metro would make it faster and more convenient to travel to Helsinki from the parts of Espoo near the new stations, but would increase the travel time from outlying areas.
A second study by the same parties, published in 2004, investigated the alternative option of a light rail line. Its supporters claimed that it would be cheaper, faster to implement, and more environmentally friendly than a traditional metro line. The primary disadvantage of the metro was seen to be the requirement to build denser housing along the line to make it more efficient. Espoo is a relatively loosely built city with many detached houses, leading to its reputation as an upper middle class city. There have been fears that constructing the Länsimetro would create tighter residential centres around each new metro station, and that therefore the "image" of Espoo might suffer. Supporters of the metro point out that as the population of the Helsinki area keeps increasing through domestic and international migration, building more housing is necessary in any case.
Opponents of the light rail line noted that it would be yet another form of rail transport among the already diversely composed rail transport network in the capital area (trams, railway, metro); and that passengers could travel on the same metro system between all stations in Espoo and all stations in Helsinki, while constructing a light rail line would lead to all passengers travelling between east Helsinki and Espoo having to switch train systems. Supporters of the light rail line claimed that it could be easily integrated with the existing Helsinki tram network and that it would be much cheaper to build than the metro extension.
In 2006, an informal private-sector shadow plan for a light rail alternative called TramWest was released. According to its critics, the plan underestimated costs and that the line was partly placed in areas where it would have been impossible to implement. TramWest also included many level crossings, which, if done badly, would slow down public transport. The proposed tracks would also have cut through the parks next to the Kiasma museum and the Helsinki Music Centre, and all the lines would have terminated at the Elielinaukio square next to the central railway station, without being integrated with any existing or future rail system. A revised version of the plan was released in early 2008, claiming to address most of these concerns. It proposed connecting Espoo with both the Länsiväylä and with Helsinki's city centre, with the eastern terminus being relocated to either Viikki or Laajasalo.
Now that construction of the Länsimetro has commenced, all these alternatives have become moot.
Preliminary plans, made in 2000 and 2001, cited the cost of building the infrastructure for the metro extension to Matinkylä to be about €400 million. When the Espoo city council decided on construction of the metro in 2004, the estimated cost was €452 million. In September 2007, the estimated cost of the Länsimetro was at least €530 million. In December 2007, Olavi Louko estimated that the cost will rise to at least €600 million. According to Louko, the cost of the excavation work has risen a third more than that of other ground construction work, due to security requirements and to the increase in simultaneous excavation work elsewhere, including the construction of the Kehärata (Ring Rail Line) in nearby Vantaa.
A metro line extension was accepted as a basis for further planning in 2000. The locations of the stations were confirmed by the cities of Espoo and Helsinki in June 2007. The extension runs underground for its entire length. The stations are:
The Ruoholahti–Matinkylä section (the first three stations in Helsinki, the others in Espoo; Swedish station names in parentheses):
- Ruoholahti (Gräsviken) (existing station)
- Lauttasaari (Drumsö)
- Koivusaari (Björkholmen) (last station in Helsinki)
- Keilaniemi (Kägeludden) (first station in Espoo)
- Aalto-yliopisto (Aalto-universitetet) (Aalto University)
- Tapiola (Hagalund)
- Urheilupuisto (Idrottsparken)
- Niittykumpu (Ängskulla)
- Matinkylä (Mattby)
The work started in January 2010 with the extension of the tunnels at the Ruoholahti metro station, and rock blasting in Espoo commenced in August 2010. All contracts for tunneling and station building were signed in December 2011, and rock blasting reached 50% completion in July 2012. The excavation of the first stations began in 2012.
The excavation work on the tunnels was completed on 27 February 2014, while the fitting out of the tunnels and construction of the stations was ongoing. The last of the tracks were laid in Matinkylä in December 2015.
In January 2014, the estimated date of opening for service was pushed back to autumn 2016 at the earliest. While physical construction was complete in schedule, there were numerous other problems, with automatization, project schedules, project leadership and safety systems. Not enough time was scheduled for safety system integration tests, which then failed, causing delay. There was poor workmanship with track installation. Rock dust was left behind from blasting and was not cleaned. Doors were substandard. There was poor communication from the cities via Länsimetro and the main contractor Sweco to the building contractors. The general manager of the project was fired. A report detailing the reasons for the failures was written, but was not released due to "advice from lawyers".
The second phase
On 3 February 2014, the city board of Espoo decided to propose to the city council constructing a continuation of the new line to Kivenlahti, with the proviso that the Finnish state would commit to paying 30% of the construction costs. This continuation would run entirely within Espoo, and would serve five new stations. On 24 February 2014, the Espoo city council approved the proposal by a vote of 65 to 10.
Starting the construction of the second phase immediately after the conclusion of the first phase has been calculated to save about 130 million euros, compared to a five-year delay between the construction of the two phases. The estimated cost of the second phase was in 2013 €801 million.
These are the stations of new future extension (all stations in Espoo; Swedish station names in parentheses):
- "Kaupunginhallitus esittää länsimetron jatkamista Kivenlahteen" (in Finnish). Espoo. 2014-02-03. Retrieved 2014-02-10.
- "Länsimetron jatke hyödyttäisi koko Helsingin seutua" (in Finnish). Helsingin Sanomat. 2014-02-25. Retrieved 2014-02-25.
- "The tender for constructing the Koivusaari metro station has been won by SRV". Länsimetro Oy. 2014-01-22. Archived from the original on 2014-02-22. Retrieved 2014-02-10.
- "Länsimetro on kiskoja vaille valmis" (in Finnish). YLE. 2014-02-27. Retrieved 2014-02-27.
- "Länsimetron rakentaminen etenee - liikennöinnin aloittaminen siirtymässä syksyyn 2016" (in Finnish). Länsimetro Oy. 2014-02-10. Archived from the original on 2014-02-22. Retrieved 2014-02-10.
- "Completion of western metro extension delayed further". Helsinki Times. 2014-02-14. Retrieved 2014-02-14.
- "Espoon kaupunginhallitus hyväksyi Länsimetron jatkamisen" (in Finnish). Helsingin Sanomat. 2012-05-28. Archived from the original on 2012-05-30. Retrieved 2012-06-02.
- "The majority of Espooans support the Länsimetro". Helsingin Sanomat. Archived from the original on 2012-05-25.
- Oksanen, Kimmo (2006-09-25). "Espoon valtuusto hyväksyi metron äänin 45–19" (in Finnish). Helsingin Sanomat. Retrieved 2010-02-16.
- "Valitus Helsingin hallinto-oikeuden 5.12.2007 antamaan päätökseen, joka koski valitusta Espoon kaupunginvaltuuston 25.9.2006 tekemästä päätöksestä Espoon eteläosien joukkoliikennejärjestelmästä (Länsimetro)" (PDF) (in Finnish). City of Espoo.[permanent dead link]
- "Länsimetro Oy". Länsimetro Oy. Archived from the original on 2014-02-22. Retrieved 2014-02-10.
- "Länsimetro construction launched". Railway Gazette. 2009-12-27. Retrieved 2010-02-16.
- "Kaavavalitusten vuoksi länsimetro hukkasi vuoden" (in Finnish). Länsimetro Oy. 2010-02-09. Archived from the original on 2014-02-22. Retrieved 2014-02-14.
- "Uusittu suunnitelma vuodelle 2008" (in Finnish). TramWest. 2008-08-28. Retrieved 2014-02-14.
- (in Finnish) Länsimetron hinta noussut ainakin 80 miljoonaa euroa, Helsingin Sanomat 9 September 2007 page A11
- (in Finnish) Länsimetron hinta on kivunnut jo ainakin 600 miljoonaan euroon, Tarkka hinta riippuu siitä, mitä päättäjät lopulta haluavat. Helsingin Sanomat 21 December 2007
- "Länsimetron hinta on nyt 800 miljoonaa" (in Finnish). Taloussanomat. 2008-01-16. Retrieved 2014-02-10.,
- "Länsimetron hinta kipuaa yli miljardin" (in Finnish). Länsiväylä. 2014-01-18. Retrieved 2014-02-10.
- "Ensimmäinen paukku ammuttiin Ruoholahdessa" (in Finnish). Länsimetro Oy. 2010-02-05. Archived from the original on 2014-02-22. Retrieved 2014-02-14.
- "Länsimetron Espoon louhinnat käyntiin Otaniemestä" (in Finnish). Länsimetro Oy. 2010-08-23. Archived from the original on 2014-02-22. Retrieved 2014-02-14.
- "Viimeinen louhintaurakka allekirjoitettiin - metrotunneleista louhittu yli neljännes" (in Finnish). Länsimetro Oy. 2011-12-21. Archived from the original on 2014-02-22. Retrieved 2014-02-14.
- "Louhinnat puolivälissä" (in Finnish). Länsimetro Oy. 2012-07-25. Archived from the original on 2014-02-22. Retrieved 2014-02-14.
- "Excavation passes halfway mark". Länsimetro Oy. 2012-07-25. Archived from the original on 2014-02-22. Retrieved 2014-02-14.
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2016-02-23. Retrieved 2016-01-18.
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2015-03-11. Retrieved 2015-03-07.
- Official web site of the Länsimetro project
- Environmental impact assessment of the Ruoholahti–Matinkylä track
- Länsimetro would be the most efficient form of public transport for Espoo, Helsingin Sanomat
- Examination of the need and feasibility of a Länsimetro track from Ruoholahti to Matinkylä (2002)