Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The subway in Helsinki is metamorphosing

The orange subway of Helsinki

Helsinki is the only city in Finland having a subway which is the most northernly network in the world, and probably also one of the simpliest. Open since 1982, it connects Ruoholahti to Itäkeskus from the main line before to spilt in to two branches to Mellunmäki (North East) and Vuosaari (South East). Long of 22.1km with 16 stations, the train is underground during only 6.5km. It also crosses a couple of bridges. Over 50 million passenger journeys are recorded each year.

During the trip, passengers can enjoy the free wifi connection which is excellent, even when the train is underground and crowed.

Map of the subway in Helsinki and its extention to Espoo in 2015

In 2015, if everything goes as planned, the subway will be extended from Ruoholahti (the current end station) to Matinkylä in Espoo. It requires to build 8 new station and two underground water crossings. The budget allocated for the extention is of 500 m€.

Automatic doors are already installed in Vuosaari

The old manual trains will be soon replaced by automatic ones. In the meantime, stations are little by little equiped with automatic doors like in Vuosaari on the picture above. The subways will be controlled from a central room in Herttoniemi. The driverless system is expected to be operational already next year.

If you ask people from Helsinki if it is worth visiting the Eastern part of the city, most of them will respond negatively. The most frequent comments are: "there is nothing to see", "it's full of foreigners", "it's ugly", "too many alcoholics". Don't listen to them! Finland is one of the safest countries in the world and you will be very unlucky if something bad happens to you. The best way to have an opinion about Eastern Helsinki is to take the subway and visit the suburban areas. Personally I like to chill in the parks in Herttoniemi, shop in Itäkeskus, walked in the forest in Vuosaari or go to its huge beach. The architecture is not too bad and people are not more rude than in the center. There are always some weird people but nothing unusual.

New decoration at Kamppi subway station

Concerning the subway stations, let's be honest, they are not pretty. Most of them are still looking like in 1982 and there is nothing special about them. Nevertheless, the station in Kamppi has been recently decorated with cristals in the ceiling, pointing at cities in the world. Another station that worth a visit is Kaisaniemi. Take the exit on Yliopistonkatu. The walls are primitive as well as the paintings. You feel like crossing the cave of a caveman.

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