HSL is preparing to tender commuter train services: a transitional agreement concluded with VR

The Executive Board of HSL authorized the conclusion of a new agreement with VR on the operation of commuter train services and maintenance of Sm5 trains in the HSL area. VR’s Board of Directors will decide on the agreement next week. The agreement covers the transition period during which the contracting parties prepare for the tendering of commuter train services. According to a letter of intent signed last year, the new agreement will deliver savings of over 30 million euros. The five-year agreement will take effect on 1 April 2016 and run until 26 June 2021.

"Our goal is that the HSL Executive Board could decide on the launch of the tendering process, how it is conducted and the schedule at the end of 2017 or beginning of 2018,” says HSL Executive Director Suvi Rihtniemi.

Under the transitional agreement, VR is responsible for the operation of HSL area commuter train services and the maintenance of trains. The agreement decreases costs by about 10 per cent. The old trains owned by VR will be removed from service on HSL's commuter train services by summer 2017, when all 81 new Sm5 trains are in service.

At the moment, the rolling stock company Pääkaupunkiseudun junakalusto Oy owns the Sm5 trains, which HSL rents for the operation of commuter train services. After the termination of the agreement, the trains can be smoothly handed over to the operator who wins the contract. At the moment, VR is one of the shareholders of the rolling stock company. VR now commits itself to selling its shares in the company to the other shareholders, i.e. the owner municipalities (Helsinki, Vantaa, Espoo and Kauniainen).

The aim is to establish a similar arrangement for depot functions to facilitate the entry of new operators. Pääkaupunkiseudun Junakalusto Oy and VR Group Ltd concluded a long-term rental agreement until 2034 for the purposes of commuter train maintance. The premises used for the maintenance of Sm5 trains at the Ilmala depot will be separated from VR’s depot functions by the termination of the agreement in 2021.

HSL and VR Group Ltd signed a letter of intent on a direct procurement contract for commuter train services purchased by HSL on 18 May 2015. The transitional agreement to take effect in April means that the tendering of commuter train services will be postponed by three years, but the agreement sets out measures to be taken during the transition period to promote fair, open competitive tendering.

The new agreement strengthens HSL’s role as a procuring authority and on the other hand, clarifies VR’s obligations regarding service level and quality. In future, HSL and VR will cooperate more closely on transport planning and procurement of railway capacity. In addition to HSL area services, the agreement includes the operation of Y trains to Siuntio until the end of 2017. In addition, HSL and VR continue the current joint ticketing on all HSL area commuter trains at least until 2019.

The most obvious change in the service production affects VR staff. Onboard ticket sales will end at the end of 2016. By summer 2017, a new operating model will be introduced in which the duties of commuter train conductors will include customer service, ticket inspections and increasing social safety. If the commuter train operator changes after the tendering in 2021, the VR staff working on HSL’s commuter train services will be transferred to the new operator under the Transfer of Undertakings regulations.