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VR or VR Group ( , ) is a state-owned railway company in Finlandmarker, and formerly known as Suomen Valtion Rautatiet (Finnish State Railways) until 1922 and Valtionrautatiet / Statsjärnvägarna (State Railways) until 1995. Its most important function is the operation of freight and passenger rail services. Maintenance and construction of the railway network is the responsibility of the Finnish Rail Administration (Ratahallintokeskus - RHK). The operation and network were originally carried out by the parent company Valtionrautatiet, which split into the two current ones in 1995.


As of 2007, only one private railway company exists in Finland, the Karhula-Sunila Railroad, a short branch line with freight traffic only, in Karhulamarker, near Kotkamarker. However several museum railways exist that are unrelated to VR Group. The Finnish Railway Museummarker in Hyvinkäämarker is the official company museum.

Company organisation

Companies in the VR group provide road freight and bus services, doing catering and real estate management, and providing data, technological, and telecommunications services for the transport and logistics sectors. The group owns a bus company Pohjolan Liikenne and a road freight haulage company Transpoint.

Altogether the group of companies includes 21 companies employing a total of about 14,400 people.


Because in most parts of Finland the density of population is low, Finland is not well suited for railways. Commuter services are nowadays rare outside the Helsinkimarker area, but there are express train connections between most of the cities. As in Francemarker, passenger services are mostly connections to the capital, Helsinki. VR provides car transport services. There are six stations that allow loading and unloading of cars on trains: Helsinkimarker, Turkumarker and Tamperemarker in the south, Oulumarker further north, and Rovaniemimarker and Kolarimarker in Laplandmarker. Car transport trains stop at other stations along the way for normal passenger transport.

International services

The only international passenger rail services from Finland are to Russiamarker. There are two passenger trains a day to Saint Petersburgmarker, called Sibelius and Repin, and one overnight train to Moscowmarker via Saint Petersburg called Tolstoi. There are plans to modernise the tracks on the Helsinki - Saint Petersburg line to enable them to support higher speed Pendolino trains. International freight traffic is mostly concentrated to the four railways across the Russian border, but there is also a connection to the Swedishmarker rail network in Torniomarker and rail ferry connections from Turkumarker to Stockholmmarker, Sweden and to Travemündemarker, Germany.


Domestic and international freight services are provided by VR Cargo, part of VR Group.

Travel time and speed

Travel time and speed by fastest train connections from/to Helsinki after 3 September 2006.
City Distance (km) Travel time (hh:mm) In future (hh:mm) Average speed Train(s)
Hämeenlinnamarker 108 0:50-0:55 111.7 km/h InterCity 60
Iisalmimarker 524 4:30 108.0 km/h Pendolino 79
Joensuumarker 482 3:25-3:35 112.5 km/h Pendolino 7
Jyväskylämarker 342 2:30-2:40 120.7 km/h Pendolino 81
Kajaanimarker 607 5:35 91.0 km/h Pendolino 79 and bus connection
Kotkamarker 217 2:00-2:10 97.2 km/h Pendolino 1 and local train 722
Kouvolamarker 166 1:10-1:15 120.0 km/h Pendolino 1
Kuopiomarker 439 4:30 113.5 km/h Pendolino 79
Lahtimarker 104 0:44 96.3 km/h Pendolino 1
Lappeenrantamarker 252 2:00-2:05 117.2 km/h Pendolino 1
Mikkelimarker 279 2:05-2:10 114.7 km/h Pendolino 70
Moscowmarker (Leningradski vokz.) 1091 10:00 84.1 km/h Express train 31 "Tolstoi"
Oulumarker 680 4:20-4:40 119.6 km/h Pendolino 46
Porimarker 322 2:20-2:30 106.2 km/h Pendolino 93 and local train 475
Rovaniemimarker 900 6:50-7:10 108.7 km/h Express train 406 and Pendolino 56
Saint Petersburgmarker (Finl. vokz.) 417 3:00-3:20 81.8 km/h Express train 35 "Sibelius"
Seinäjokimarker 346 2:10-2:20 130.6 km/h Pendolino 45
Tamperemarker 187 1:15-1:20 135.2 km/h Pendolino 81
Turkumarker 194 1:22-1:35 111.9 km/h Pendolino 126
Vaasamarker 420 3:30-3:35 115.1 km/h Local train 440 and Pendolino 42


Electrification of Finland's railways did not start until the late 1960s, but most main lines are now electrified. The system used is 25 kV 50 Hz AC overhead wiring (as with many lines in Denmarkmarker, Francemarker and the UKmarker).The largest (and Finland's first) class of electric locomotives are the Sr1 class (built in the Soviet Unionmarker from 1973 onwards), but are now supplemented by the Sr2 class and the high-speed Sm3 Pendolino units.

The first Helsinki area electric commuter trains operated in 1969, initially between Helsinki and Kirkkonummimarker. Heading northwards, the electric wires reached Seinäjokimarker in 1975, Kokkolamarker in 1981, Oulumarker in 1983 and eventually their northernmost point at Rovaniemimarker in 2004. The most recent electrification was the Iisalmimarker-Oulu line in December 2006.

Greenhouse gas emissions

As of June 2009, detailed statistics for VR's greenhouse gas emissions were provided by LIPASTO. On average, in 2007, carbon dioxide-equivalent emissions per passenger-kilometre were

  • Electric, long-distance (intercity): 15g
  • Electric, long-distance (pendolino): 25g
  • Electric, local traffic: 22g
  • Diesel-powered: 77g

Rolling stock


VR currently, as of early 2008, operates two classes of electric locomotives (Sr1 and Sr2) and three classes of diesel locomotives (Dv12, Dr14 and Dr16). The use of diesel locomotive hauled passenger trains is declining due to electrification of almost all main lines and the (re)introduction of railbuses (Dm12) on secondary routes. EMUs in use are the Pendolino (Sm3) and local traffic EMUs Sm1, Sm2 and Sm4. VR operated steam locomotives until 1975; the regular use of steam traction for scheduled passenger services ended in 1970 but occasional use continued until 1975.

Locomotive classification system

The current VR locomotive classification system was taken into use in 1976. The current system is a simplified version of an earlier system begun in 1942. In this system a locomotives class designation consists of two letters and a serial number. The first (capital) letter signifies the source of power, either S (sähkö) for electric or D for diesel. The second (lower case) letter signifies locomotive weight: k (kevyt) for light, axle weight 11 metric tons or less; v (väliraskas) for midweight, axle weight 11,1 tons to 15 tons; and r (raskas) for heavy, axle weight 15,1 tons or more.

Old locomotive classification systems
Preserved VR class Vr2 steam locomotive at Joensuu station
The original VR classification system was taken into use in 1885 (before this there was no classification system in use). It was based on the wheel arrangement of the locomotives: each wheel arrangement was assigned a letter of the alphabet, which was followed by a serial number. The assignment of letters to different wheel arrangements did not follow any particular logic; the letter A signified a 4-4-0 wheelbase in the Whyte notation, B signified a 0-4-2ST locomotive, C a 0-6-0 locomotive, and so on.

The 1942 system was similar to the current one, excepting that the first letter in the designation signified the types of trains the locomotive was generally planned to haul. The letters were: H (henkilöjuna) for passenger trains, P (paikallisjuna) for local (commuter) trains, T (tavarajuna) for freight trains, S (sekajuna) for mixed freight-passenger trains and V (vaihto, literally "switch") for shunters. In addition to this the borderline between midweight and heavy locomotives was 14,0 tons, not 15,0 tons as it is in the current system. When diesel locomotives were taken into service in the 1950s, they were additionally differentiated by the steam locomotive classes by beginning their numbering from 11 instead of the next free number in running order. As a result the last steam-powered heavy passenger locomotive class was designated Hr3, and its first diesel-powered counterpart Hr11. When the newest system was taken into use in 1976, the serial numbers of diesel locomotive classes were not changed.

Locomotive types in use by the VR
Class No. in use Years of manufacture Max. speed Notes
Sr1 110 1973-1996 140 km/h Electric
Sr2 46 1995-2003? 210 km/h (capable of 230 km/h) Electric
Dv12 192 1963-1984 125 km/h Diesel: pre-1976 classes Sv12 & Sr12
Dv16 28? 1962-1963 85 km/h Diesel: pre-1976 class Vv16
Dr14 24? 1968-1971 75 km/h Diesel: pre-1976 class Vr12
Dr16 19 1985-1992 140 km/h Diesel

Notable locomotive types formerly used by the VR
Class No. built Years in use Wheel arrangement Max. speed Notes
Tv1 (K3) 148 1917-1974 2-8-0 60 km/h Steam; 142 locomotives were built for the VR and 6 for the Latvian Railways.
Tk3 (K5) 161 1927-19?? 2-8-0 60 km/h Steam; most numerous locomotive class in Finland.
Hr1 (P1) 22 1937-1974 4-6-2 110 km/h Steam; last Pacific-type locomotives in everyday use in Europe outside the Eastern Bloc.
Tr1 (R1) 67 1940-1975? 2-8-2 80 km/h Steam
Dr12 (Hr12) 42 1959-199? Co-Co 120 km/h Diesel


Rear of a train of "blue" carriages, Kouvola station.
The yellow stripe signifies 1st class.

Of locomotive hauled passenger coaches, VR has four main types:
  • "Blue" carriages - popularly known as such due to their blue and light gray liveries. Once the mainstay of VR's network, they are have now been largely replaced on most long distance services starting from Helsinki. They are still extensively used on Turku-Tampere services. Top speed is usually 140 km/h.
  • "Red" carriages - similar to the "blue" coaches, but with a red and light gray livery, different seat layout and repositioned entrance doors, mainly used for locomotive-hauled commuter services to and from Helsinki during rush hours, occasionally also in place of the blue carriages in long-distance services. Top speed is 160 km/h after modernisation.
  • Single-deck InterCity carriages - used on many routes, including the Helsinki-Saint Petersburg "Sibelius" train. Top speed is 160 km/h.
  • Double-deck InterCity 2 carriages - extensively used on the Helsinki-Tampere route. Many long distance trains consist of both InterCity and InterCity 2 coaches. Built in Finland by Transtech Oy, these are VR's most modern carriages.

1st class carriages are distinguished by a yellow stripe above the windows. On the "Blue" carriages restaurant cars are distinguished by a red stripe above the windows. Aggregate cars (used on InterCity trains on non-electrified track) are distinguished by a blue stripe above the windows.

The last wooden-bodied carriages were withdrawn by the mid-1980s. Prior to the 1970s these had been the mainstay of VR's passenger rolling stock.

Sleeping cars

VR operates sleeper services between Helsinki and Turku and Laplandmarker, which also include car-carrying (motorail) wagons. Double-deck sleeping carriages (including rooms with en suite showers and toilets) were introduced on the Helsinki-Rovaniemimarker service in the 2000s. These wagons are painted in a red-and-white livery similar to the InterCity coaches. Other overnight services (Turku-Rovaniemi and Helsinki-Kolari) are operated by older "blue" sleeper carriages.

Electrification was extended from Oulumarker northwards to Rovaniemi, but not the full way to Kemijärvimarker. In 2006, direct sleeper services were discontinued beyond Rovaniemi (to Kemijärvimarker) as to the new double-deck sleeping carriages were unable to operate with diesel haulage. The sleeper service to Kemijärvi was restarted in March 2008, with new "aggregate" carriages converted to use 1,500 V electrification of the sleeper cars between Rovaniemi and Kemijärvi. Sleeper services to and from Joensuu were withdrawn in 2006, but with the opening of the new direct line between Lahtimarker and Keravamarker, this has allowed the acceleration of daytime services.

On 12 January 2009, VR announced they had requested tenders for the purchase of 20 new sleeping cars, valued at 60–70 million euros. The two bidders interested were Alstrom, which manufactures the Pendolino and some commuter trains for VR, and Finnish Transtech, which manufactured VR's newer sleeping cars. The decision led to the resignation of the President and CEO of VR-Group, Henri Kuitunen, and the group’s Chairman of the Board, Antti Lagerroos. Helsingin Sanomat reported they had wanted to defer the replacement of older sleeping car rolling-stock until 2012 at the earliest. However, the decision went ahead because VR is a state owned business and there was pressure to seek orders from Finnish Transtech, which is currently struggling due to market downturns, in order to secure jobs.

Freight wagons

The Finnish loading gauge allows the operation of freight vehicles considerably larger than most other railways in the European Union. Road trailers (often of VR's subsidiary Transpoint) can be easily accommodated on ordinary flat wagons. Much of the freight on the VR network is carried from Russia in Russian wagons, including large capacity eight-axle oil tank wagons.

VR also has a one-third ownership of SeaRail, a specialist operator of freight wagons designed for through running (via ferry) to Sweden and elsewhere in Western Europe.

Multiple units

VR currently operates one class of diesel-powered multiple units and four classes of electric-powered multiple units.

Multiple units in use by the VR
Class No. in use Years of manufacture Max. speed Notes
Sm1 50 1968-1973 120 km/h EMU consists of an Sm1 car and an Eio or Eiob class car
Sm2 50 1975-1981 120 km/h EMU consists of an Sm2 car and an Eioc class car
Sm3 18 sets 1995-2006 220 km/h Tilting high-speed Pendolino train
Sm4 60 (30 sets) 1999-???? 160 km/h EMU consists of two Sm4 units
Sm5 1 (test use) 2008- 160 km/h EMU one four-section Sm5 unit. 32 Sm5 units are on order by Junakalusto Oy and will be operated by VR Group. They will be operated on Kehärata which will be completed in 2014.
Dm12 16 2005- 120 km/h Single carriage diesel units
The Sm3 class Pendolino is the VR's "flagship", mainly connecting largest cities to the capital.

Helsinki area commuter services are largely operated by classes Sm1, Sm2 and (the newest) Sm4 electric multiple units (EMU).

A new class of high speed EMUs will be built for Karelian Trains. This is a joint venture between VR and Russian Railways which will operate the Helsinki-Saint Petersburg service from 2009.

Czechmarker-built single carriage diesel multiple units (VR Dm12 class) are currently being introduced on secondary services, such as the Parikkalamarker-Savonlinnamarker branch line.

Multiple unit classification system

The multiple unit classification system follows a similar logic as the locomotive classification system: the first letter signifies the power source (in addition to electric and diesel, gasoline (B, bensiini) and wood gas (P, puukaasu) have been used), followed by the letter m (moottorivaunu) signifyng a multiple unit, followed by a serial number.

Commuter traffic in Helsinki area

VR runs commuter traffic in Helsinki Metropolitan Area. See VR commuter rail.


  2. Kari Salo: "Hr1 - The Finnish Pacific", article in Finnish railroad enthustiasts' magazine Resiina, 2/87.

See also

External links

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