Travel by public transport has clearly increased during the summer and is likely to intensify further in August when commuting restarts. VR and HSL are returning to near-normal timetables. VR will increase both long-distance and commuter train services in August. Currently, VR are running about 85 per cent of the normal services and from 10 August it will run about 90 per cent of the normal services. On 10 August, HSL will return from reduced summer timetables to normal autumn timetables.
“As responsible operators, we do everything we can to make travel as safe as possible for all of our customers. For example, we have enhanced cleaning, we have increased the numbers of vehicles and offer cheaper tickets for off peak services. We also expect our customers to be responsible. You should not travel when sick, practicing good hand hygiene is important, and it is worth keeping distance from other passengers whenever possible,” says Rolf Jansson, Managing Director of VR Group.
“Of course, the same guidelines apply to HSL's services. We have also enhanced cleaning in our transport network and we are making every effort to make travel as safe as possible. Customers can also influence the safety of their journeys, for example, by travelling outside the busiest times,” says Suvi Rihtniemi, Executive Director of HSL.
According to Jyri Häkämies, CEO of the Confederation of Finnish Industries, safe public transport enables the return to work and keeps the economy going.
“After the summer, Finland will start to open step by step. Public transport is an important enabler for the opening up of society and people’s return to their workplaces. Let's keep the wheels of the economy turning safely,” Häkämies says.
Passenger numbers are increasing, concerns about travel has decreased slightly
During the spring and summer, both VR and HSL asked their customers about travel safety.
In June and July, VR asked customers about their wishes related to safe train travel *. Based on the responses, only about 22 per cent of respondents plan to reduce their train use, compared to 29 per cent in June.
Similar results were obtained from a customer survey ** conducted by HSL in June: 82 per cent of respondents said they would use public transport in the next three months, and 86 per cent of them in the coming weeks. HSL's passenger numbers in July were 30-40 per cent lower than at the same time last year, but in April there were 70 per cent fewer passengers than normal.
According to the results of VR's survey, train travel is still a concern, but the concern is slightly decreasing. 19 per cent of respondents are worried about travelling by train, the majority (48%) are a little worried and a third (31%) of customers are not worried at all. In HSL’s June survey, 19 percent of passengers were very worried and 31 percent were a little worried.
“It is natural that passengers still have concerns. However, we are doing everything we can to make travelling safe. In addition to enhanced cleaning, we also remind passengers at stations, at stops and on-board about safe travel. Hand sanitizer dispensers are also available at metro stations,” says Rihtniemi.
Both HSL and VR will continue to make efforts to offer new services to keep passengers safe from the coronavirus.
As their latest measure, VR offers its customers the opportunity to buy an adjacent seat on long-distance trains at a much lower price than a regular seat. In addition, on day trains, it is possible to book the entire cabin for private use.
HSL aims to publish more detailed information in the future on whether there is congestion and, if so, when. HSL's coronavirus guidelines and safety measures are available at hsl.fi/en/corona.
* VR's customer survey was carried out online at the beginning of July, and a total of 2,800 VR customers responded.
* * The HSL customer survey was conducted online in mid-June, and approximately 5,800 HSL customers responded.