When I visited Finland for the first time . . . around six years ago there was talk of this looping train that would magically carry people to and from the airport. Well, that train is here and today service begins at 3:59am from track 7 in Helsinki’s Central Railway Station. (The first passengers will even get a small surprise . . . I wouldn’t make that up.) But yesterday I got a chance to take the train for a quick loop around the city and it really seems like a comfortable and pretty reliable way to travel to the airport. Since I’m used to having my in-laws drop me off, with luggage in my lap, it didn’t take much to impress me, but why wouldn’t you use this service?
1. There’s no traffic, but depending on where you catch the train there can be quite a few stops before reaching the airport. Don’t think of this as time consuming, rather advantageous or for the people. You can catch the train all over town vs. that silly bus that smells like socks and only picks up at the railway station. There’s also a free of charge bus service running between the airport terminals and the Aviapolis station.
2. Besides the traffic, what does a cab cost anyway? I’m betting it’s not as cheap as a one way HSL fare which is what you’re paying when you hop onto the train. And yes, if you have a travel card already, you may use that. It would really take something like four passengers, two of them cranky children, and a station not within reach, to make a taxi service look like the better option. I suppose a crowded train could be pretty frustrating. Time will tell, as the estimates tell us the service could see up to 200,000 passengers per day during peak season.
3. Ring Rail is more spacious and is actually designed for transporting passengers to and from the airport. Since everyone’s mission is basically the same it’s safe to assume there’s a bit more consideration when it comes to sharing space in this train. I briefly sat in one of the seats today during our journey and found that I had ample space to relax, access to electricity (gotta charge my phone you know) and space for stowing luggage. The overhead space isn’t huge, but neither is my luggage these days. I suppose if you have a suitcase from the 80’s there’s a more appropriate storage space somewhere in the train. There’s also access for wheelchairs, strollers, etc.
4. It’s not as slow as I thought it would be. Yesterday we did the entire loop in about an hour and twenty minutes but if I understood correctly during regularly scheduled service you can make your trip in approximately 30 minutes. Trains should come by in 10 minute intervals. When the tracks aren’t congested, the trains can comfortably move along at around 100km pace. Yesterday we went as fast as 118.
5. Cake and Food Trucks. So there won’t always be cake but for today at least, there is an absurd amount of celebration associated with the opening of this service. You can hop on at 5 different stations where there’s a Ring Rail welcome party. The festivities will include music, food trucks, prizes, activities for kids . . . and the City of Vantaa is even encouraging graffiti in a designated location. But take notice, the Helsinki Airport station will open on July 10 due to last-minute construction work.
More info regarding the festivities can be found here: https://www.hsl.fi/en/Ring%20Rail%20Line%20opening