The Jokeri Light Rail line will be built between Itäkeskus in Helsinki and Keilaniemi in Espoo. We boarded a prototype LRV in the test depot nearby Itäkeskus.

The tram cars are domestically built in the southern small town of Loviisa. Photograph: Daniel Ekblad for Finland Today

Comfort, sustainability, and frequency. Those are some of the attributes that the new light rail route will bring to public transport in Helsinki and Espoo. Looking at the map, Helsinki’s first LRV (Light Rail Vehicle) route is a ring around the city. “This project was conceptualized already 25 years ago”, said Mikail Kesenci, the commissioning manager at the Raide-Jokeri Light Rail Alliance project.

The trams, according to Kesenci, will start trafficking route 550 in the summer of 2024, but the first state-of-the-art tram cars have already arrived from the factory in the southern small town of Loviisa, where they’re being produced under Skoda’s brand name.

The line originates on the eastern part of Helsinki’s coast at Itäkeskus and terminates at the coast of Espoo in the west. At each end, there is a connection to the metro and along the route, there are connections to all the regional train routes of Helsinki. The route, trunk route 550, is currently serviced by a bus.

The interior of the LRV is light and spaceous. Photograph: Daniel Ekblad for Finland Today

We boarded the prototype LRV in the test depot nearby Itäkeskus. In comparison to the existing trams, it seemed more spacious even though the width of the tracks is the same as in central Helsinki. It may be thanks to the light color theme used in the interior design and the new seating arrangement.

So, what are the benefits of upgrading the bus to an LRV? The time needed for the bus to go from end station to end station is 74 minutes. The LRVs are expected to do the same in 60 minutes, albeit with a slightly shorter route.

Even though the travel times don’t differ all that much, the new electrified light railway line internally named Raide-Jokeri is expected to increase land value and attract businesses along its path. Capital investments prefer the permanent nature of rails as well as the positive influence on the cityscape attributed to a tram as opposed to buses. New property developments are already underway along the route.

And upon completion, you will be able to get onto the LRV with your regular HSL ticket, being driven from A to B by one of the one hundred newly employed LRV drivers.

The planned length of the line is approximately 25 km, of which 16 km will be in Helsinki and the remaining 9 km in Espoo. The light rail line will replace trunk bus line 550, which is the busiest bus line in the Helsinki region. Illustration: Raide-Jokeri