VR Group

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VR Group
Native name
VR-Yhtymä Oy/VR-Group Ab
FormerlySuomen Valtion Rautatiet
Type Private (osakeyhtiö)
Area served
Russia on the Helsinki–St Petersburg and Helsinki–Moscow lines
Key people
Rolf Jansson
Products Rail transport
€152 million
Owner Government of Finland
Number of employees
7,500 (2016)
Website vr.fi
Finnish railroad network-en.svg
The Finnish railway network in 2010. [1]
Green Finnish Pendolino.JPG
An Sm3 class Pendolino train.
Locale Finland
Track gauge 1,524 mm (5 ft) Russian gauge

VR Group, commonly known as VR, is a government-owned railway company in Finland. VR's most important function is the operation of Finland's passenger rail services with 250 long-distance and 800 commuter rail services every day. [2] With 7,500 employees and net sales of €1.251 million in 2017, VR is one of the most significant operators in the Finnish public transport market area. [3]


VR was created in 1995 after being known as Suomen Valtion Rautatiet ('Finnish State Railways', Swedish : Finlands Statsjärnvägarna, Russian : Финские государственные железные дороги) from 1862 to 1922, and Valtionrautatiet ('State Railways', Swedish : Statsjärnvägarna) from 1922 to 1995.

As part of the concern, Avecra is a subsidiary for onboard catering service, Pohjolan Liikenne for bus traffic, VR Track for developing and maintaining of infrastructure and VR Transpoint for freight. Since 2017, its headquarters is located at the Iso Paja building, previously occupied by the state-owned broadcasting company Yle, in northern-central Helsinki.


Rail transport started in Finland in 1862 between Helsinki and Hämeenlinna, and multiple main lines and smaller private railways were built in the following decades. VR mainly operated on the high-demand main lines. During the twentieth century, most private railway companies were shut down and VR assumed a monopoly in rail transport. In 1995 the company was privatised into VR Group.

Since 2010, the maintenance and the construction of the railway network have been the responsibility of the Finnish Transport Agency (Finnish : Liikennevirasto). The operation and network were originally carried out by the parent company Valtionrautatiet until 1995, when it was split into VR and the rail administration entity Ratahallintokeskus.


Companies in the group provide road freight and bus services, catering and real estate management, and provide data, technological, and telecommunications services for the transport and logistics sectors. The group owns a bus company, Pohjolan Liikenne, and a road freight haulage company VR Transpoint.

Altogether the group of companies includes 21 companies employing a total of about 14,400 people.


Because in most parts of Finland the density of population is low, Finland is not optimally suited for railways. Commuter services are nowadays rare outside the Helsinki area, but express trains interconnect most cities. As in France, the majority of passenger services are connections to the capital, Helsinki. In the 2010s, VR has made connections faster by reducing stops at minor stations and increasing running speeds with new locomotives and renovated high-speed trains.

For car transport services, passengers drive their cars on board car transport wagons themselves, and then leave the wagon on foot to board a passenger wagon. Car loaded on Finnish car transport train.jpg
For car transport services, passengers drive their cars on board car transport wagons themselves, and then leave the wagon on foot to board a passenger wagon.
People waiting to unload their cars off the train at Kolari railway station. Waiting for car unloading at Kolari railway station.jpg
People waiting to unload their cars off the train at Kolari railway station.

VR provides car transport services. Seven stations allow loading and unloading of cars on trains: Helsinki, Turku and Tampere in the south, Oulu further north, and Rovaniemi, Kemijärvi and Kolari in Lapland. Car transport trains stop at other stations along the way for normal passenger transport and is available as daily service to Rovaniemi and Kemijärvi and several times a week to Kolari. Finland is the only Nordic country to offer car transport on trains, however, car transport on trains is available on many European countries outside the Nordic countries. [4] In August 2021 VR will commence operating the Tampere light rail. [5]

Helsinki commuter rail

VR operates the commuter traffic in the Helsinki area on behalf of HSL.

International services

The Allegro is used between Helsinki and Saint Petersburg Allegro ready.jpg
The Allegro is used between Helsinki and Saint Petersburg

There is an international passenger rail service from Finland to Russia. As of June 2011, there are four Allegro passenger trains per day to Saint Petersburg and one overnight train to Moscow via Saint Petersburg called the Tolstoi (named after Leo Tolstoy). [6] The tracks on the Helsinki – Saint Petersburg line were upgraded to enable a higher running speed up to 220 km/h before the Allegro started its service. [7]


Domestic and international freight services are provided by VR Transpoint, part of VR. In 2009, both domestic and international freight traffic declined, which worsened VR's financial position. [8] International freight traffic is concentrated to the four railways across the Russian border but there is also a connection to the Swedish rail network in Tornio. Formerly, even rail ferry connections from Turku to Stockholm, Sweden, and to Travemünde, Germany has existed.

Rolling stock

VR class Sr2 electric locomotive at Turku railway station. I11 596 Bf Turku, Sr2 3203.jpg
VR class Sr2 electric locomotive at Turku railway station.
Three VR class Sr3 locomotives between Hameenlinna and Parola stations Vr sr3 3304 3307 3306.jpg
Three VR class Sr3 locomotives between Hämeenlinna and Parola stations
A modernised and recoloured diesel locomotive pulls a regional train to Varkaus railway station in 2011. H782 at Varkaus 2011-03-28.jpg
A modernised and recoloured diesel locomotive pulls a regional train to Varkaus railway station in 2011.


VR operated steam locomotives until 1975. Although the regular use of steam traction for scheduled passenger services ended in 1970, occasional use continued until 1975. As of 2011, the company operates two classes of electric locomotives (Sr1 and Sr2) and three classes of diesel locomotives (Dv12, Dr14 and Dr16). The use of diesel locomotive hauled passenger trains has declined due to electrification of all main lines and the (re)introduction of railbuses (Dm12) on secondary routes.

In October 2010, VR announced plans to renew its locomotive fleet by ordering around 200 new locomotives, which are expected to enter service in 2015–25. [9]

On 20 December 2013, VR announced plans to purchase 80 new electric locomotives, with 97 options. This upcoming Sr3 will be based on the Siemens Vectron and will replace the aging Sr1's. The locomotives will be fitted with helper diesel engines that can be used for shunting in partly unelectrified railyards. Deliveries will occur between 2017 and 2026. [10] [11]

Locomotive classification system

Preserved Vr2 class steam locomotive at Joensuu station. VR steam loco.JPG
Preserved Vr2 class steam locomotive at Joensuu station.

At the beginning of traffic, locomotives were distinguished by their names, and by 1865 also by their numbers. [12] In 1887, the locomotives were given their original classification system. It was based on the wheel arrangement of the locomotives: each wheel arrangement was assigned a letter of the alphabet, which was followed by a serial number. [13] The assignment of letters to different wheel arrangements was made when the first locomotive using it was brought into service; the letter A signified a 4-4-0 wheelbase in the Whyte notation, B signified a 0-4-2ST locomotive, C a 0-6-0 locomotive, and so on. [14]

On 8 October 1942, the notation system was changed to two letters and a serial number. The first letter in the designation now signified the types of trains the locomotive was generally planned to haul: [15]

The second small letter indicated the weight of the locomotive: [15]

  • r (raskas) = heavy (axle load over 14.1 t)
  • v (väliraskas) = midweight (axle load 11.1–14.0 t)
  • k (kevyt) = light (axle load under 11.0 t)
  • m = mechanical transmission (in multiple units)
  • s (sähkö 'electric(ity)') = electrical transmission (in multiple units).

When diesel locomotives were taken into service in the 1950s, they were additionally differentiated by the steam locomotive classes by beginning their numbering from 11 instead of the next free number in running order. As a result, the last steam-powered heavy passenger locomotive class was designated Hr3, and its first diesel-powered counterpart Hr11. [14]

The current VR locomotive classification system was taken into use on 1 January 1976. The first (capital) letter was now used to differentiate between locomotive types: S (sähkö) for electric, D for diesel and T (työkone) for maintenance equipment. The serial numbers of diesel locomotive classes were not changed, the Hr11 class becoming Dr11. In addition to this the borderline between midweight and heavy locomotives was changed to 15.1 tons and the second letter in multiple units is always m (for moottorivaunu). [14]

Locomotive types in use by the VR
ClassNo. in useYears of manufactureMax. speedPower typeNotes
Sr1 1091973–85 (1996)140 km/hElectricSome originally had a maximum speed of 160 km/h
Sr2 461995–2003210 km/hElectric
Sr3 82016-200 km/hElectric
Dv12 1801963–84125 km/hDiesel-hydraulicPre-1976 classes: Sv12 and Sr12
Dr14 241968–7175 km/hDiesel-hydraulicPre-1976 class: Vr12
Dr16 181985–92140 km/hDiesel-electric3-phase AC inverter drive
Notable locomotive types formerly used by VR
ClassNo. builtYears in useWheel arrangementMax. speedPower typeNotes
Tv1 (K3)1481917–74 2-8-0 60 km/hSteam142 locomotives were built for the VR and 6 for the Latvian Railways.
Tk3 (K5)1611927–75 2-8-0 60 km/hSteamMost numerous steam locomotive class in Finland.
Hr1 (P1)221937–74 4-6-2 110 km/hSteamLast Pacific-type locomotives in everyday use in Europe outside the Eastern Bloc. [16]
Tr1 (R1)671940–75 2-8-2 80 km/hSteam
Dr12 (Hr12)421959–90 Co-Co 120 km/hDiesel
Dr13 (Hr13)541963–2000 Co-Co 140 km/hDiesel


Class Edo control cars are used on select routes (here seen at Pasila railway station). VR Edo 28603 Pasila 2013-08-12.JPG
Class Edo control cars are used on select routes (here seen at Pasila railway station).
Interior view of the top deck of a VR InterCity2 double-deck carriage. InterCity2 - passenger car interior.jpg
Interior view of the top deck of a VR InterCity2 double-deck carriage.

The wide Finnish loading gauge allows the passenger coaches to be considerably wider than most European passenger coaches. The aisle and seats are wider than in other European trains in the standard 2+2 configuration, and in commuter traffic 3+2 seat configuration is used to allow more seats for the same train length. The last wooden-bodied carriages were withdrawn by the mid-1980s. Prior to the 1970s these had been the mainstay of VR's passenger rolling stock.

VR has three types of locomotive hauled passenger coaches:

In addition to these, VR has ordered 12+13 Class Edo control cars from Transtech, eight of which have been in regular passenger traffic since 29 October 2013. [17] The cars are used in InterCity connections with the Sr2 and the upcoming Sr3 locomotives pushing the train.

First class, or Extra as VR calls it, is marked with Extra signs outside of the coaches on InterCity trains. Even restaurant coaches are marked similarly.

On the "Blue" carriages, first class used to be distinguished by a yellow stripe above the windows and restaurant cars by a red stripe. Cars equipped with diesel generators, which are used to provide electricity to InterCity or sleeper wagons on non-electrified tracks, can be distinguished by a blue stripe above the windows.

Sleeper cars

Sleeper trains between Helsinki and Lapland usually stop at Tampere for about half an hour around midnight, giving adventurous passengers time to briefly visit the city. Train stop at Tampere.jpg
Sleeper trains between Helsinki and Lapland usually stop at Tampere for about half an hour around midnight, giving adventurous passengers time to briefly visit the city.

VR operates sleeper services between Helsinki/Turku and Lapland, which also include car-carrying (motorail) wagons. Double-deck sleeping carriages (including rooms with en suite showers and toilets) were introduced on the Helsinki–Rovaniemi service in the 2000s. These wagons are painted in a green-and-white livery similar to the InterCity coaches. Since 2016, the new coaches have begun to replace the blue carriages even on the way to Kolari.

Electrification extends from Oulu northwards to Kemijärvi. [18] In 2006, direct sleeper services were discontinued beyond Rovaniemi (to Kemijärvi) because the new double-deck sleeping carriages were unable to operate with diesel haulage. The sleeper service to Kemijärvi was restarted in March 2008, by adding to the train in Rovaniemi a new diesel generator car supplying 1500 V electricity for the sleeper cars between Rovaniemi and Kemijärvi; this setup was continued in use until the electrification extension to Kemijärvi was completed at the end of 2013. Sleeper services between Turku and Joensuu and Helsinki and Kajaani were withdrawn in 2006, but with the new direct line between Lahti and Kerava, the daytime services were made quicker.

On 12 January 2009, VR announced they had requested tenders for the purchase of 20 new sleeping cars, valued at €60–70 million. The two bidders interested were Alstom, which manufactures the Pendolino and some commuter trains for VR, and Finnish Transtech, which manufactured VR's new sleeping cars. The decision led to the resignation of the President and CEO of VR-Group, Henri Kuitunen, and the group's Chairman of the Board, Antti Lagerroos. Helsingin Sanomat reported they had wanted to defer the replacement of older sleeping car rolling stock until 2012 at the earliest. However, the decision went ahead because VR is a state owned business and there was pressure to seek orders from Finnish Transtech, which is currently struggling due to market downturns, in order to secure jobs. [19]

Freight wagons

The Finnish loading gauge allows the operation of freight vehicles considerably larger than most other railways in the European Union. Road trailers (often of VR's subsidiary Transpoint) can be easily accommodated on ordinary flat wagons. Much of the freight on the VR network is carried from Russia in Russian wagons, including large capacity eight-axle oil tank wagons.

VR also has a one-third ownership of SeaRail, a specialist operator of freight wagons designed for through running (via ferry) to Sweden and elsewhere in Western Europe.

Multiple units

VR class Sm4 EMU at Helsinki railway station. VR Sm4 6422 Helsinki.JPG
VR class Sm4 EMU at Helsinki railway station.
JKOY class Sm5 local train at Riihimaki. Sm5 Riihimaki.JPG
JKOY class Sm5 local train at Riihimäki.

The Sm3 class Pendolino is the VR's "flagship", mainly connecting largest cities to the capital with top running speed up to 220 km/h. Other EMUs in use are the Sm1, Sm2 and Sm4 in Helsinki area commuter services. In addition, VR operates Pääkaupunkiseudun Junakalusto Oy -owned Sm5 class EMUs in Helsinki local traffic and Sm6 Allegro under a joint venture of VR and the Russian railways, Karelian Trains, between Helsinki and Saint Petersburg.

VR currently operates one class of diesel-powered multiple units: the Czech-built single carriage Dm12, which is used mainly on secondary lines.

Multiple units in use by the VR
ClassNo. in useYears of manufactureMax. speedNotes
Sm1 01968–73120 km/hEMU consists of an Sm1 car and an Eio class car
Sm2 501975–81120 km/hEMU consists of an Sm2 car and an Eioc class car
Sm3 18 sets1992–2006220 km/hTilting high-speed Pendolino train. Runs on domestic routes.
Sm4 60 (30 sets)1998–2005160 km/hEMU consists of two Sm4 units
Sm5 812008-2017160 km/hEMU consists of one four-section Sm5 unit. 41 Sm5 units are owned by Junakalusto Oy and are operated by VR. [20] They will be operated also on Kehärata which will be completed in 2014. On 10 September Helsinki Regional Transport Authority announced the order for 34 additional units. By the end of 2017 there will be 75 Sm5 trains in service. [21]
Sm6 42010–11220 km/hTilting high-speed Pendolino train. Services began in December 2010. Branded Allegro. [6]
Dm12 162004–06120 km/hSingle carriage diesel units

Multiple unit classification system

The multiple unit classification system follows a similar logic as the locomotive classification system: the first letter signifies the power source (in addition to electric and diesel, gasoline (B, bensiini) and wood gas (P, puukaasu) have been used), followed by the letter m (moottorivaunu) signifyng a multiple unit, followed by a serial number.


VR has used several liveries in the past. When InterCity traffic started during the 1980s, VR's colour scheme was changed into red and white. In 2009, VR changed its corporate colour to green [22] and all the coaches have repainted to the new colour.

See also

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Oulu railway station

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Mixed train

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  1. Lines are marked in green for freight and passenger routes, brown for freight routes and grey for routes no longer in use.
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