Tampere, Finland, is making tramway history: Traffic on Tampere Tramway will begin as scheduled on 9 August – construction work will be ready on time and under budget


Tampere will enter a new era on 9 August 2021 when traffic begins on Tampere Tramway. Construction work on section 1 of Tampere Tramway (Pyynikintori-Hervanta, Tampere University Hospital-Hatanpään valtatie) has been completed ahead of schedule and traffic will begin on time. Based on cost forecasts, the project will be completed approximately 34 million euros under the objective cost.

The decision to build Tampere Tramway was made in November 2016 and after a construction and commissioning phase of nearly four years, traffic on Tampere Tramway will begin as scheduled on 9 August. The project has caused a massive change in Tampere’s cityscape and the regional public transport system: the modern Tramway now glides through a completely renovated main street built for convenience, public transport and smooth light traffic. Tramway construction is more than just a transport infrastructure project – it’s a major investment in urban development that has already increased the attractiveness and appeal of Finland’s second largest urban area.

– In addition to being a public transport solution, the tramway is a very big part of urban development. During 2014–2017, a total of 8,500 homes were built in Tampere. The number of homes being built in 2018–2021 is 15,000, and the majority of these have been built along the tramway route, says Lauri Lyly, Mayor of Tampere.

The tramway is also an investment in a cleaner and easier everyday life. The tram cars will operate on green electricity, and each one can carry the same number of passengers as three buses. This will reduce the amount of traffic, improve air quality and make the city centre more pleasant.

– Above all, the tramway is being built to make everyday life easier for Tampere residents and other people moving around here, regardless of whether they are going to work, running errands or simply visiting the city. The tramway is part of a major change in Tampere, the goal of which is to reduce climate change and increase the use of sustainable modes of transport. Other actions in addition to the tramway include developing local train traffic, city bikes, a one-hour train connection to the capital region, and ensuring smooth car traffic. Tampere and its city centre have to be accessible with all modes of transport now and in the future, states Lyly.

An opportunity to renew structures all at once

The original objective cost for section 1 of tramway construction, binding to the Tramway Alliance, was 219 million euros. In addition to tramway construction, the City of Tampere ordered a lot of other work from the Tramway Alliance. These include so-called parallel projects completed in conjunction with tramway construction: water services work, cable piping, renewing street structures, and building new cycling routes.

The job of renewing Hämeenkatu, which is Tampere’s main street, was also assigned to the Tramway Alliance approximately two years after tramway construction began in the city centre in 2017. The renewal of Hämeenkatu was completed one year early, because the work was originally scheduled to be ready in 2022.

– In terms of time and cost, it was logical to renew all street structures in conjunction with tramway construction. This has also been the best solution for city residents, even though the extended period of road work was inconvenient for many people. Regular street repairs completed one as separate projects have always been part of the Hämeenkatu lifecycle, but now we had the chance to deal with many issues simultaneously. This means it will be a long time before we need more major road work, explains Mikko Nurminen, Director of Tampere’s Urban Environment and Infrastructure service unit.

The costs of work performed in conjunction with tramway and project content changes, such as construction of the Hämeenkatu entity and the Hatanpään valtatie branch track, were added to the Tramway Alliance commission. These additions increased the objective cost for the Tramway Alliance to approximately 300 million euros, with about 250 million allocated for construction and about 50 million for other work performed in conjunction with construction. The actual costs were approximately 34 million euros under the objective cost.

– This is significantly less than expected, which benefits all the alliance parties. The city benefits both financially and in general, because it was possible to complete street and water services work – which would have been necessary in any case – at the same time. This alliance has proven its strengths, and we can now say that implementing the tramway in this manner was the right decision, continues Nurminen.

The alliance model is Tampere Tramway’s strength

Tampere Tramway has been implemented using the alliance model in both construction and traffic. The alliance model has proven its strengths in the development and construction phases.

– Sitting at the same table from the development phase onwards has increased trust between all the partners. Commitment to joint targets from the very beginning plays a key role in project success. After all, the slogan for the alliance is “we win together, we lose together”, emphasises Pekka Sirviö, CEO of Tampere Tramway Ltd.

Section 1 of the tramway was originally supposed to be completed by the end of this year. However, we were able to accelerate the schedule for the Hatanpään valtatie section, meaning that all tramway work was completed and traffic on the entire section can begin on 9 August.

– The fact that we can start using the whole tramway network at the same time as the new bus routes is excellent news for passengers. This makes it easier to plan the entire traffic entity and put the finishing touches on services, states Mika Periviita, Director of Public Transport at Nysse.
– The first phase of Tampere Tramway construction is now coming to an end. I’m very proud of the work done by the Tramway Alliance and the fact that we were able to exceed expectations and come in under budget, says Project Manager Sari Valjus from the Tramway Alliance.

Cooperating with Tampere residents

Communications have been a strong focus in the Tampere Tramway project. This applies to both tramway construction and the different commissioning phases. The starting point was the fact that the system is being built for Tampere residents – and with Tampere residents.

– The construction work and various phases of tramway system commissioning have had a lot of different impacts on the everyday life of city residents and businesses. We set a low threshold for communicating about these changes. Feedback received from city residents has also been very important to us, because it allowed us to take the necessary actions in good time throughout the project, says Sirviö.

Another form of cooperation with city residents involved requesting the opinions of different user groups at several different stages of the tram car design process. Reviews organised before the start of manufacturing and a Mock-up Exhibition at Tampere Hall in February 2019 gave people the opportunity to assess a model of the car from, for example, the perspective of accessibility. City residents were also able to vote on the Tramway’s colour, the voice used for announcements, fabric designer, and names for the tram cars. The tramway has also been celebrated together at block parties. Last but not least, people were able to travel on the tramway during trial traffic and help refine the service experience.

Tampere Tramway’s tram cars are manufactured by Škoda Transtech at its Otanmäki factory in Kajaani. Idis Design Oy was responsible for the car design. Tampere will receive a total of 20 tram cars for section 1. Tampere’s tram car is accessible, spacious, air conditioned and specially designed for northern conditions. The tram car is 37.3 metres long, 2.65 metres wide and 3.6 metres high, and it weighs 56.8 tons without passengers. Tampere’s tram car is the largest ever manufactured in the Nordic countries.

– Tampere’s ForCity Smart Artic has been manufactured in Kainuu, Finland to meet the needs of Tampere residents. We consider it important for the tram cars we deliver to enable accessible travel flexibly during all seasons, also for those with wheelchairs and children’s prams. As the only tram car manufacturer in the Nordic countries, Škoda Transtech is very proud to be part of the everyday life of Tampere residents during the upcoming years. In the future, we will also be responsible for servicing the tram cars, states CEO Juha Vierros from Škoda Transtech.

Test runs leading up to the Tramway era

The first tram car moved in Tampere in March 2020, when test runs began in Hervanta with a test car imported from Germany. The very first Tampere tram car arrived in the city in May of the same year, and Tampere residents were able to watch its first test runs in July.

– The test runs have been carried out as planned right from the start. We’ve worked hard to ensure the safest possible tramway system. It’s particularly important to communicate with city residents whenever major changes take place in a city’s traffic environment. In cooperation with the city and Nysse, we’ve implemented an extensive, multi-channel traffic safety campaign regarding the traffic rules in a tramway city. The media has also been a great help in terms of disseminating information. Since repetition is the key to learning, the campaign will also continue in the future. However, Tampere residents have taken the new mode of transport into consideration in traffic very well and cooperation has gone smoothly, says a pleased Pekka Sirviö.

Tampere Tramway’s test runs and the commissioning of new areas have been important events for the project and for city residents. Tampere residents have been very interested in the first movements of the tram cars, regardless of the time of day or weather conditions.

– We’ve experienced many great moments during the project, but for me the most memorable were the first test runs in Kaleva that attracted a lot of city residents with support signs and the first test runs in the city centre, which were watched by hundreds or even thousands of people on a grey November day, recalls Sirviö.

The global pandemic that began when the first test runs were starting presented a challenge in terms of tramway commissioning. However, this didn’t affect the project schedule – the biggest problems involved ensuring safety for everyone when trial traffic with passengers began.

– Passenger safety is an important part of public transport service. The tramway has attracted a huge amount of interest right from the very beginning of the project. This proved to be a positive problem when trial traffic began, because we had to limit the number of enthusiastic tramway passengers by arranging advance registration. This was certainly the right solution and trial traffic with passengers has progressed as expected, explains Mika Periviita, Director of Public Transport at Nysse.

Applying the lessons learned – development work continues

The construction and commissioning phase has lasted for nearly four years and all the parties involved have learned an amazing amount during that time. Well-organised planning and testing play a key role in commissioning a completely new tramway system. In addition to the extensive construction project, Tampere Tramway’s test runs were a major effort for tramway builders because the new cars, track and drivers were all being tested at the same time.

The Tramway Alliance designers and builders have done more than 2.2 million hours of work during section 1. This means over 1,400 person-years. The Tramway Alliance signed subcontracting agreements worth over 10,000 euros with more than 300 different companies. In terms of euros, more than half of the subcontracting went to companies in Pirkanmaa.

The tramway will have about 130 employees when traffic begins, with 75 of these working as traffic controllers and tram car drivers. Their employer is VR, which is responsible for traffic on Tampere Tramway and also handled the recruitment and training of these employees.

– Becoming a tramway operator is a historic moment for us at VR. We want to be involved in using sustainable public transport to solve the problem of climate change, and it’s wonderful to add the tramway to the responsible transport modes that we operate. The tramway will add 75 new employees to the 400 VR people we already have in Tampere. This number will increase when Pohjolan Liikenne bus company, which is part of VR Group, begins providing tramway feeder traffic in 2022 with fully electric buses. All in all, it’s been a great shared journey with the Alliance partners. During this time, we’ve cooperated to build a new mode of transport from scratch, says Topi Simola, Senior Vice President of Passenger Services at VR.

The Tampere region is well on its way to having Europe’s most modern public transport system. Construction work on section 2 of the tramway is in progress and regional expansion of the system is moving ahead. Tramway construction has spurred a renewal of the entire public transport route system, and regional residents now have more opportunities to use public transport.

– The tramway was implemented in Tampere as an urban development project with close links to land use development. The tramway example demonstrates how strong growth in the urban area can guide the development of tramway and bus and train traffic in the future. We have everything needed to implement a versatile public transport system, and the future looks good in this region, states Mika Periviita.

– We gained a lot of good experience from implementing section 1, which we can utilise when planning and building section 2 and any possible future tramway lines. Among other things, the technical tramway solutions have been developed during the time. The operating methods, communications and cooperation with stakeholders has been refined into a smooth process, says Ville-Mikael Tuominen, Project Director in the City of Tampere’s Tramway Development Programme.

Tramway art leaves a permanent mark on the developing cityscape

Tampere Tramway has also made art a part of the passenger experience. Tampere’s Tramway Art Programme was launched in summer 2018. Its aim is to create a high-quality art entity that improves the pleasantness of the city environment. Art was already a strong element in the cityscape during tramway construction. The programme has added four completely new landmarks, eight art stops and a large amount of diverse art to the Tampere cityscape, for example, on electric boxes, as literary art on tram car windows, and in seat fabric patterns. Tampere will also have an art tram car.

A total of 73 artists have participated in the Tramway Art Programme so far. The artist selections were made using different methods: direct commissions, portfolio submissions and even competitions. The goal was to achieve the highest possible international level in art procurements. More information about the Tramway art entity is available online at www.tampereenratikka.fi/ratikan-taide (only in Finnish).

The Tramway Art Programme will continue in section 2 of the tramway.