A delay in track work between Tampere and Toijala caused havoc on Sunday, one of the busiest travel days of the year.
Track work in south-central Finland that was to have been completed on Sunday afternoon was delayed, potentially triggering chaos for thousands of travelers returning from Midsummer weekend festivities.
With just 15 minutes’ notice, State Railways VR announced that trains between Tampere and Toijala would be replaced by buses beginning at 3pm.
VR also halted sales of all remaining evening train departures.
The reason for the delay was slow renovation work on a railway bridge. The work was supposed to end by 3pm on Sunday, but instead is not expected to be completed until around 1am Monday, said Fintraffic’s Rail Traffic Center.
According to the center, the delay will have “massive effects” on train traffic on the main line. That includes the routes between Oulu and Helsinki and between Tampere and Turku.
“All trains in the evening will have to be replaced by buses (between Tampere and Toijala). There will definitely be heavy congestion there, because there are a lot of passengers on those trains,” said Jari Lindströmtraffic manager at the Rail Traffic Center.
Passengers were warned to expect delays of an hour or more.
“According to VR, all passengers must be prepared for delays of up to an hour,” reported Yle journalist Tero Valtanen from Tampere around 4pm.
According to Valtanen, Tampere railway station was filled with people as dozens of buses stood outside. He described passengers as annoyed and indignant as temperatures soared to 30 degrees Celsius or more across southern Finland.
Tickets for most evening trains unavailable
VR has stopped sales of tickets for afternoon and evening train services so that the ticket holders could be accommodated in buses between Toijala and Tampere.
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“You can buy tickets for some departures, for example for night trains. But tickets are not being sold now for most train services,” Taina Kuitunen of VR communications told Yle on Sunday afternoon.
According to Kuitunen, the timing makes the situation particularly challenging.
“Due to return traffic from the Midsummer holiday, it may be more difficult to find seats on buses,” Kuitunen said.
Kuitunen said that train passengers who have already bought tickets can cancel or reschedule their trips without extra charge.
Night trains may also be delayed.
Meanwhile Fintraffic’s Road Traffic Center predicted that holiday weekend return traffic on southern Finland’s main roads would remain heavy until Sunday evening.