The Case for Kouvola: Reinventing the Rails

Kouvola has been consistent in pursuing its dream of the “Rail Renaissance.” 

Spurred on by the huge potential of the Trans-Siberian Railway, the City has always recognised that a “great location is a terrible thing to waste”. Looking around Northern Europe, it is difficult to find better logistical connectivity than what Kouvola has to offer.

Kouvola’s superb location along three key roads makes the city the leading dry harbour in the land, catering to the needs of the major ports of South Finland – such as HaminaKotka, Helsinki and Naantali. There’s a metropolis conveniently nearby, no matter if you go west or east:  by train, it takes little over one hour to get to Helsinki, and two hours if you’re heading to St. Petersburg.

Furthermore, the largest freight marshalling yard in Finland is located in Kouvola, creating a strong focus point for a thriving ecosystem of almost 200 transport and freight handling companies. In addition to Trans-Siberian Railway, the other north-eastern key corridors are looming as highly attractive alternatives, as well, lifting the entire ecosystem.

Number One in the North
Featuring the highest cargo flow and volume in Finland, Kouvola continues to evolve and diversify its logistical offering – an effort that has not gone unnoticed in the European Union. Having been designated by the EU Commission as the only TEN-T core network terminal in Finland, Kouvola launched an ambitious Rail-Road Terminal Project in 2015. 
The aim of the project is to create Finland’s first large-scale intermodal terminal, complete with state-of-the-art Logistics Park services. By 2030, Kouvola wants to be one of the most important logistical hubs in Northern Europe, driven by cutting-edge Smart Logistics.

Currently, the Rail-Road Terminal Project is seeking to boost the efficiency of the Scandinavian-Mediterranean Core Corridor (ScanMed Corridor) as well as the flow of goods beyond Mediterranean, all the way to the Asian growth markets. The main bottleneck identified within EU borders is the current incompatibility of the European train lengths and train handling capabilities with the business requirements of cross-continental transit of the ScanMed – Asia corridor. 

Competitive Edge
By fully upgrading the Kouvola Rail-Road Terminal – and the emerging Multimodal Logistics Platform (MLP) – one can seriously boost the competitiveness of Kouvola as a major player in North European logistics.

Kouvola seeks to promote the cause of multimodality via the Multimodal Logistics Platform which is one of the most valuable long-term projects for the City at the moment. The City is committed to financing the remaining funding for the project, as well as securing the appropriate land areas.  All and all, the Rail-Road Terminal will be expanded by 574,000 square metres, if everything goes according to plan. 

How Long Can You Go?
Upon the tracks themselves, the key problem is maxi trains (up to 1,100 metres in length; the longest possible on Finnish rail network). Right now, before entering the EU, one must split the maxi trains into smaller parts in order for them to be handled properly, but the new Rail-Road Terminal is poised to accommodate also maxi trains (incoming traffic).
The system works also vice versa, meaning that outgoing maxi trains can be deployed more conveniently, too. Once this “speed bump” is removed from the way, the traffic volumes can grow considerably. 

Unrivalled Assets    
The case for Kouvola and the upgrade is strong enough: first off, the North-Eastern end of the ScanMed Core Corridor is the only EU core corridor with a direct connection to Asia via Russia. Second, this cross-border link is the only border crossing between EU core corridors and third countries where a gauge change is, in fact, not necessary at all. And third: The City of Kouvola is the only rail-road terminal location on the core corridors in Finland (as established by TEN-T and CEF).

Kouvola’s focus on rails has remained unwavering through the years; one of the drivers for development was the local Innorail concept that noted – quite early on – that Climate Change is directing goods on tracks instead of wheels. 

Long Time Coming
There has been a transit traffic agreement in force between Finland and Russia already since 1997, and the revised agreement was in the works for several years before it was finally signed by both parties in April 2015. Once in force in early 2016, the ScanMed corridor will be able to reach east like never before, opening new business opportunities all around Asia. 

The old agreement did not allow competition on Finnish or Russian side regarding international rail transport, but the new agreement will change all that, opening up the competition.

Enter: Smart Corridors
Powerful traffic corridors of the future do not rely on volume alone. Working in close collaboration with its academic partners – such as Lappeenranta University of Technology – Kouvola wants to be a pioneer in boosting the “IQ of logistics”, as well. 

Combining research, ICT and sustainability, Smart Corridors could well become a real winner in the global logistics race that keeps only intensifying.