The making of a metro

Six years ago, when I had just been appointed as the Director for Economic and Business Development in Espoo the Helsingin Sanomat daily newspaper came to interview me at the Keilaniemi metro construction site. Since that day, the Tapiola metro tunnel has served as the venue for Slush, Europe’s largest growth company event that specialises in bringing together startups and international investors and the metro stop at Aalto University has been used as the inspiration for a new augmented reality concept created by a group of international students that allows people to enjoy a virtual art gallery experience while waiting for their train. On Espoo Day, the acoustics at Otaniemi station were put to the test and given a seal of approval by legendary Finnish band Retuperän WBK, while cyclists have also enthusiastically embraced the opportunity to make use of these underground cycle super highways.

Tuulametro1Investors meeting startups in the as yet unfinished metro tunnel during Slush 2013.

It has been great to witness how the metro has already proved so inspiring for so many and been put to good use as the physical backdrop for such a huge number of events, encounters and experiences. That said, I could not agree more with Arja Miller, Chief Curator at Espoo Museum of Modern Art (EMMA), who in an interview in the August issue of Kauppalehti Optio magazine said: ”West Metro, please come, we need you,” before adding: ”We are delighted at the number of people who have discovered Emma already, but for tourists in particular, direct metro access will make a huge difference.” The metro expansion will herald a new sense of dynamism for the entire capital region. International tourists will definitely feel the benefits, but so will local visitors, for whom the new rail map will be an excellent and convenient way to get to know the area better.

At Tapiola metro station, a brand new landmark awaits travellers. Emma jättää jäljen (Emma leaves a trace) by the artist Kim Simonsson is an enormous white sculpture that also incorporates a digital dimension. As the name already suggests, Emma really does leave a trace – her handprint and the character featured in a series of videos will lead visitors to explore the art on display in EMMA and elsewhere in Tapiola.

Kokoelmat EMMA -Espoon modernin taiteen museon kokoelmaThe eponymous Emma seen at Tapiola metro station and at the Espoo Museum of Modern Art. She also appears to visitors in a digital guise. Photo: Yehia Eweis / EMMA

Espoo is the city of sustainable growth. Other cultures are part of the fabric of everyday life here. There is huge demand in our area for new highly skilled jobs and new and innovative services. Together, they will act as a driver for a renewed sense of urban dynamism and provide a full range of employment opportunities for Espoo residents. The metro will play a key role in making this a reality.

The metro gets people moving. I’ve been so pleased to hear about the positive effect it is having on the recruitment prospects of a business based just a few hundred metres from the Urheilupuisto station. The business now attracts candidates from all over Helsinki, with many citing the excellent public transport provision as an inducement to applying.

Very soon, all that Espoo has to offer will be just a short metro ride away.

Tuula Antola

Tuula Antola_150x200

Tuula Antola is the Director of Business and Economic Development in the City of Espoo.  She is an innovation gardener, who is ambitious to help creating new, not only in Espoo but in Finland also.


New West Metro line – like building an ocean liner inside a glass bottle

The scope of the West Metro project is almost unprecedented in Finland. The end product will be vastly different from the metro service that was first created 40 years ago. The initial project plan, completed in 2008, failed to look forward towards the future and assess the sort of technologies that were likely to be available now, notably in the areas of fire safety but also in terms of wider building services. The safety features incorporated into the new metro are on a completely different level of sophistication, even by international standards.

Phase one of the project kicked off in 2009. Over the years, the technical specifications were revised, and the cities served by the metro line evolved and grew. For the project, this has meant having to adapt to a changing urban environment, it has brought multiple re-writes of the plan as well as a variety of extensions and expansions, particularly with regard to the technical aspects and close collaborations with other construction projects. The land above the metro line now houses a university campus, shopping centres and even the tallest building in Espoo. The West Metro is set up to enable so-called integrated journey chains that allow people to leave work, visit the supermarket, head home and take their children to after-school activities using public transport only. This will become a reality when you ensure that people can access the metro when and where they need it.

When you ask the contractors to comment on what the greatest challenge has been, they will invariably cite below-ground logistics. The planning that has gone into the project has largely involved ensuring that the logistics run smoothly. The process of constructing a 21st century metros service with all the technical sophistication it entails is akin to building an ocean liner inside a glass bottle, with no storage space. The project must follow the plan exactly and move seamlessly from phase to phase.

As we embarked on phase one, we did not have much previous experience of metro construction to draw on. Today, Finland has a whole team of people with a full range of up-to-date specialist skills in this area. Their expertise will be put to good use as we embark on phase two to construct the Matinkylä-Kivenlahti line. This phase comprises 14 kilometres of track, five stations and an underground depot at Sammalvuori. More than 90 per cent of the earthworks are already completed. In line with the lessons learned during phase one, the scope of the projects will be carefully scrutinised and particular attention will be given to ensuring that the work is well managed and information is effectively disseminated to the relevant teams.

We know what makes a good metro service, what technical facilities it requires, what the fire safety needs are and what sort of IT systems are called for. A metro construction project is a multi-disciplinary effort and effective information sharing is the critical success factor. This is what will deliver an end product that ideally matches user expectations.

Project management play a key role in mega projects of this scope. They are responsible for keeping an eye on the big picture, which will allow for effective decision-making, particularly towards the end of the project’s run. Large projects invariably involve huge amounts of detail and there are always vast numbers of staff on board. A precise overview allows the team to spot any issues and problems before they lead to bottlenecks. Everyone involved in delivering the project must take ownership of a clearly defined role and all must keep their eye on the big picture at all times.

Ville Saksi

Ville Saksi

Ville Saksi is the CEO of Länsimetro Oy