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Developing the future of railroad traffic

High-speed, comfortable, easy, environmentally friendly – railroad traffic has a bright future ahead of it, and Sito wants to be increasingly involved in its development.

JärvinenLaura Järvinen, M.Sc. (Tech), is Sito’s new Director of the Railways and Structures Business Sector. Laura is no novice to the field – she has accumulated experience in, most recently, a demanding position as Head of Design in VRTrack’s expert team and, prior to this, as Senior Inspector at the Finnish Rail Administration. Laura joined Sito in mid-November 2014 and claims to feel right at home among some 72 experts in the business sector.

Laura’s enthusiasm is visible and can also be heard in her voice. Rail traffic and trains have always touched peoples’ hearts.

While to most, the romanticism of steam engines and diesel multiple units (fondly known in Finland as flat-hats) belong to a bygone age, the importance of railroad traffic will continue to grow in the future. Its competitive edge in moving both people and goods, compared with rubber tire traffic, is also of great importance from an environmental perspective.

Improving, or even maintaining, its competitiveness cannot be taken for granted, but Laura Järvinen is undaunted even by major challenges. “Designing well-functioning railroad traffic is very complicated. The operational environment is continually changing and becoming more complex, while requirements are being updated. Railroad traffic is part of a changing society and social structures, as well as a changing traffic environment. We shouldn’t just adapt to this change, but take advantage of and anticipate it.”

Everything is changing

The way people move is changing. Few of us see ourselves only as a motorist, bus passenger, or train traveler. People want to get from A to B and later C, maybe even D, effortlessly, using a variety of means. The method is actually irrelevant, as long as the journey is easy, comfortable, and on time.

Railroad stations are evolving. They are now modern traffic junctions and commercial and recreational centers, attracting thousands of urban residents and passers-through every day. New stations may also be located underground. The challenges of underground construction in the Finnish bedrock require experience and expertise – as well as nerves of steel – of geologists, designers, and earthwork professionals alike. They must be able to solve a variety of problems even during construction.

In the future, housing will increasingly be concentrated along railroad tracks. Residents must be protected from the disturbance caused by railroad traffic, such as vibration and noise. The track environment must also be safe and comfortable to move around in even in the dark.

It is not always easy to reconcile climate change and technological development. The reliability of high-speed trains, traffic safety, and keeping to schedules in the northern winter conditions can be a challenging equation, which needs to be addressed by a range of experts.

Long experience

Sito already has over 35 years of experience in track project planning. Sito’s track experts have been involved in drafting the Track design manual B20 and Track maintenance environmental manual, and in improving railroad construction site safety for the Finnish Rail Administration and the Finnish Transport Agency. Their mark can be seen in railroad traffic planning and needs analyses, passenger and freight transport reports, project assessments, and environmental impact assessments.

Over the years, Sito has been involved in many strategic rail projects, such as the Ostrobothnia and Pasila-Riihimäki railroad projects, the Lahti bypass project, and the Leppävaara City Rail Link on the Helsinki-Pasila section. The Ring Rail Line is under construction, while the City Rail Loop is awaiting a decision.

Comprehensive service portfolio

“In a few decades, Sito has grown into a multi-skilled expert in infrastructure projects. At present, our services cover practically all areas of planning, including expertise in special fields, as well as all phases of the project life cycle from preliminary surveys to construction planning and work site supervision. It’s great to be able to offer customers a full array of services, instead of just partial optimization of a project,” notes Laura Järvinen with satisfaction.

Sito’s Railways and Structures Business Sector services even encompass areas requiring special expertise, such as ensuring compliance with requirements and acceptance of projects, deployment planning, scheduling, monitoring, and regulatory issues, as well as all types of surveys related to railroad engineering. Sito’s expertise also covers issues related to rail traffic safety, such as ensuring traffic safety, project risk and safety management at different life-cycle stages, rail tunnel safety and safety equipment, as well as ETMS. “The safe management of construction on top of and next to rail lines will be increasingly important in southern Finland, as there is only a limited amount of land available along the tracks,” Laura Järvinen points out.