Upon walking into the Mätinkylä metro station through the silent Saturday morning corridors of the Iso Omena shopping mall, a host of metro employees await commuters to answer questions about the new subway system. Their excitement is clear. The familiar orange of the metro is lined along the carpet greeting passengers before leading them down through escalators onto the main platform of Mätinkylä.
Länsimetro, or ”West” metro in English, an underground subway project long in the works has opened to the public today in its first phase, running between Mätinkylä and Ruoholahti. As Helsinki and the capital area continue to expand in population, the need to minimize commute time and increase the efficiency of public transport has increased over the years. The long-winded and complex venture has experienced setbacks, delays and scrutiny but has finally launched, taking the nation’s capital a step further into streamlining and modernizing public transport.
The project, in the works since initial forecasts and talks for the first phase in 2007 and eventually the second phase in 2012, experienced growing budgetary requirements, eventually spilling into a budget of 1.186 billion euros for the entire process, with costs split between different entities of government including Helsinki and Espoo.
According to länsimetro communications, the project was delayed due to initial estimations of time requirements and commissioning stages. Furthermore, länsimetro has made no secret of the fact that the magnitude and complexity of the plan were difficult to estimate given the extent of the work required to complete the colossal mission.
Entering the long, single compartment metro car, the train starts off towards its destination of East Helsinki. The new stations are spacious and designed in an urban grey with unique touches to each station amidst the various seating arrangements of metal chairs and benches gripping the platforms. The subway car zooms through parts of Espoo and Helsinki stopping briefly at each station before reaching the Kamppi shopping mall and bus terminal, arriving in 18 minutes, as advertised.
Raj Guleria, 38, a visiting tourist from India and his company were impressed by the metro services in general. When asked about his thoughts on the city and metro service, “It’s nice and convenient,” he said thoughtfully. Sinikka, a frequent traveler between Espoo and Helsinki, was more enthusiastic about the new project. “It’s ecologically friendly and eases my trips to visit friends in East Helsinki. It will also now take me conveniently to Tapiola, where I travel to often!”
Given my personal proximity to the Kivenlahti station, I was excited about the idea of cutting my commute time into the city. Time will tell about the efficiency and long-term success of länsimetro.
For now, the new schedule is underway, the trains are running, and the metro cars are zipping in and out of Helsinki on this new journey.
The Matinkylä–Kivenlahti stretch of the west metro will be the next construction phase consisting of seven kilometres. New stations will be Finnoo, Kaitaa, Soukka, Espoonlahti, and Kivenlahti. The entire line from Matinkylä to Kivenlahti will be completed in 2020 at the earliest.