Passenger numbers on the metro on the rise - ways to increase capacity are being studied

Published: 13.8.2021 6.32

In the future, more and more people will travel on the metro. This is why current predictions suggest that the capacity of the metro must be increased by the beginning of the next decade.

HKL, HSL, Länsimetro Oy and the City of Espoo have launched a project to study how the capacity could be increased in the future.

With the growth of the capital region and new metro stations, the number of passengers on the metro will increase. Since the West Metro started operating, passenger numbers have increased from 60 million to 90 million. The volume will continue to increase when metro services to Kivenlahti start operating. In addition, the capacity of the eastern branch of the metro will not be sufficient in the future as Helsinki becomes more built up and land use in the metro catchment area intensifies. In February 2020, the most congested part of the metro line in the morning peak was in the East between Sörnäinen and Hakaniemi.

Passenger number forecasts will be taken into account in the capacity improvement and its schedule. The coronavirus pandemic has significantly reduced the number of passengers on the metro. In spring 2021, an updated prediction of the growth in passenger numbers will be completed, which will for the first time consider the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. It is possible that in the future, travel will focus less on peak times than before the pandemic but there is still no information on this. Consequently, we must also prepare for the growth of demand to deviate from previous predictions, and the schedule of the capacity project will be adjusted accordingly.

Illustration of Kivenlahti metro station. Artwork by Kalle Mustonen. Station's design by ALA Architects.Photo: Länsimetro

Reducing headways allows for an increase in the number of passengers

A key way to improve the passenger capacity of the metro is to shorten headways. At the beginning of the next decade, the current headway of 2.5 minutes during peak times will no longer be sufficient to meet the needs of a growing number of passengers. Currently, there is room for 14,000 passengers per hour on a total of 24 trains. In the future, capacity will have to be sufficient for up to 18,000 passengers per hour in a total of up to 36 trains per hour. The aim is to allow for a 100-second headway during peak times in the future. 

“The metro systems must be renewed so that the headways can be shortened. Shorter headways also shorten stopping times at stations as well as travel times,” says Heikki Viika, Project Director at HKL.

Reducing the headways requires replacing the current metro traffic control system. The system is partly outdated and will be renewed in stages during this and the next decade. For example, a new access control system will replace the on-board emergency stop device which will improve the safety of metro services. This will make it possible to shorten the headways at the end of this decade, although more trains will naturally also be needed in order to achieve this.

Guidance at stations and on trains will be improved 

The project also aims to explore how the existing trains could be made more functional. One of the objectives is to be able to direct passengers to the carriages with the most room.

"We are also considering other means of guiding passengers in order to achieve shorter stopping times at stations. This includes streamlining passenger flows at stations and guidance on trains," says Viika.

It is also possible to increase the capacity of the metro, for example, by removing seats from the carriages to have more standing room and room for bicycles. Seats will be removed in stages from the oldest metro trains (M100 series) as all trains in the series are refurbished. Having a larger space around the entrance to the carriages also facilitates embarkment and thus shortens stopping times at stations.

The measures now planned to improve the capacity of the metro are predicted to be sufficient until the 2060s.

You can find the general plan outlining the measures to improve the metro capacity on the HKL website(extrernal link) (in Finnish). The general plan will be presented to the Board of Directors of HKL on 14 January 2021 and after this to the HSL Executive Board and Espoo City Board.

  • Urban development