The Fans Go Wild!
I found the Helsinki Metro to be the dullest, most horribly zombifying, and relatively useless subway system ever, full of people who shut their eyes if you talk too loudly and whimper if you smile at them.
The construction of the Helsinki Metro
started all the way back in
1969, and was originally scheduled for completion in 1977. This
schedule turned out to be a little too optimistic, with progress
delayed by political infighting, wrangling over the system to use
since the USSR
tried to pressure Helsinki into using Soviet technology
and the firing of Metro Commission head Unto Valtanen
over a bribery
scandal. There was also extensive public debate over,
of all things, the logo
of the metro -- despite widespread popular support for a cute hard-hatted mole
the planners eventually opted for a
dull but highly recognizable white capital M
on a red square.
But good things come to those who wait, and the Helsinki Metro
began operations on August 3, 1982 between Kamppi, in the center
of town, and Itäkeskus, the aptly named "East Center" on the eastern
outskirts of Helsinki. (There were semi-regular public test runs to
Hakaniemi and Rautatientori for several months before the official
The original stretch -- 10 kilometers long and featuring all of six stations -- was briefly the world's shortest subway line! However, it spawned branches to Mellunmäki in 1989
and Vuosaari in 1998, and the metro is now the dominant means of
transportation in eastern Helsinki and so popular that operator HKL
is having capacity problems at rush hour. In the center,
Kaisaniemi station has been added to better serve the University of
Helsinki and reduce the load on the Central Railway Station, and
Ruoholahti station has been added in the newly created residential
area of the same name.
: 21.1 kilometers, 16 stations, 22 minutes
Itäkeskus (the largest shopping center in Fennoscandia)
Kaisaniemi (University of Helsinki)
Rautatientori (Central Railway Station)
) is another Docklands
former industrial area being redeveloped into a residential and
commercial district, so a new metro station will be added for it by
the end of 2006.
The long-awaited western extension towards Espoo
remains stalled due to opposition from Espoo County,
even though a majority (60-70%) of its own citizens
support the extension, and Helsinki City and the
Finnish government have promised to pay their share.
Construction is unlikely to start before 2008 (meaning
completion in 2015 or so), but
at least the track is finally clear, with the following stations after Ruoholahti:
- -|- - - - - -
Keilalahti (Nokia world headquarters)
Otaniemi (Helsinki University of Technology)
The stations in parentheses may or may not be built.
Some plans for a north-south "Töölö
subway" starting at the major
rail station Pasila
and intersecting or joining the current system
have been floated, but it seems unlikely to be built within
the next 20 years.
Costs and Use
Hours of operation
: 05:30-23:30 Mon-Sat, 06:30-23:30 Sundays
: 2.5 minutes peak, 5 minutes off-peak
Single tickets cost a whopping €2 a pop, although there are a
of multiple-trip and pre-purchase discounts available, and the ticket
can be used to transfer to any other means of public transportation
in Helsinki. You can even purchase a ticket as an SMS message into
your mobile phone.
You must have a valid ticket when on the trains or when within a
(clearly marked) zone inside the station, but there is no ticket control on
entry. The metro is regularly patrolled by ticket inspectors,
affectionately known as Smurfs due to their blue livery, and
outwitting the Smurfs is a national pastime.
The subway cars themselves are firmly stuck in the functional 70s,
all boxy angles and colored a screaming DDR orange -- very much
the Volvos of the underground. Seats are indestructible plastic
and even the floor is rubberized for easy cleaning. A new, slightly
more humane series of cars is slowly being introduced.