We have year 2023 just about wrapped up. And the coming year is just around the corner. What does the past year look like at this point? And what progress can be made in 2024? Jari Pylvänäinen, Project Manager of the project alliance, shares his reflections on the past year and also provides us with some thoughts on what next year will bring.  

In 2023, the Digirail project required a lot of work, especially in the procurement of signalling equipment and the preparations for related procurements, which started at the beginning of the year. The purpose of the procurements is to provide Finland with a system package that is compatible with the pan-European Rail Traffic Management System (ERTMS). The decision to procure the signalling system shall be made in the first part of 2024.

“The procurement of this type of system has not been carried out in Finland before. We have set our sights high and are striving to achieve a truly modern solution also on a European scale. The aim is also to learn as much as possible about this implementation and to utilise this information also in more extensive procurements during the implementation phase,” says Jari Pylvänäinen, Director at Fintraffic.

The Digirail project has actively promoted Finland’s message for Europe that it should also be possible to utilise commercial network connections in train control. In this respect, we were able to witness a rare event, even on a European scale, when a locomotive drove on the Kouvola-Kotka/Hamina track section for the first time under control via public network connections. The solution has already raised some positive reactions on the international arena.

According to Pylvänäinen, co-operation between different parties has clearly become more frequent during the past year, and efforts have been made to clarify and further develop common goals. Practical implementation of the alliance model used in the project has also been more successful.

“In addition, we have drawn up a joint development and management plan for the railway sector, which defines the national mindset more extensively, i.e. the direction in which we want to promote things technologically. This plan supports making our co-operation more concrete and defines our targets in the longer term,” Pylvänäinen says.

Construction of the EKA track section is to start next year

According to Pylvänäinen, the co-ordination of projects on the Lielahti-Rauma/Pori track section, which goes by the name EKA, will play a major role next year when the construction of the track section begins in earnest. With regard to the signalling system, specification work and a review of comprehensive safety will begin, and the first demos of the delivery are expected to be completed by the summer.

In addition, the Digirail project will continue to progress towards a more larger scope implementation phase in the coming year. To support this, an implementation plan will be developed for the implementation phase, including also a project strategy for nationwide system renewal. During the year, the progress made in the implementation phase will also be specified and efforts will be made to secure long-term funding.

Pylvänäinen himself is particularly proud of how much Finnish expertise the project has accumulated in terms of the new system entity. He would like to thank all the Digirail people especially for their long-term efforts on the project.

“We are creating a completely new kind of system and operating model in Finland, and this requires persistence from the whole team. I am delighted to see how people continue to get excited about what we are doing. This gives the project the strength to move forward also in 2024. Thank you to everyone, both at Digirail as well as all our partners, for the past year! Have a wonderful Christmas!” he concludes.