posted on 22nd Feb 2023 01:10
Double-Deckers For VR’s IC Daytime Services
VR has been using the double-deck cars from the Otanmäki works for a quarter of a century - they were introduced into regular service on 1 June 1998. At that time, the first batch of 92 cars for daily operation was made up of the Classes Ed, Eds and Edfs, produced by Talgo-Transtech. With a top speed of 200 km/h, they have a length over the buffers of 26.4 m, a width of 3.2 m and a height of 5.2 m above the TOR, the external dimensions being generally valid for all VR double-deckers. They have aluminium bodyshells, are pressurised and thermally insulated for operation in temperatures down to -35 °C.
The letter "E" in the designation means the second class and "d" a double-decker. The Eds cars have additionaly compartments for families with children and part of the lower deck is adapted for disabled passengers, Class Edfs cars also have a compartment for a train conductor. In the following period, this fleet for daytime operation was expanded by the batches of the Classes Ed, Eds, Edfs and Edb. The latter, now designated Class CEd, however, was created by modifying the existing Class Ed cars in the VR works to create a new "Ekstra" category with a more comfortable business class section on the upper deck.
All of the above batsches date from 1998 - 2002 and 2007 - 2008. Then, in 2011 - 2012, VR received an additional batch of 30 Class Ed cars and 10 Class Edfs cars (referred to by the operator as Project IC06), which were ordered in 2009.
This was followed by a framework contract concluded between VR and Transtech in March 2011 for 15 restaurant cars ("ravintolavaunut") and 12 Class Edo driving trailers ("kaksikerroksiset ohjausvaunut"), which were VR's first ever (not only) double-deck driving trailers; this contract was designated by the operator as Project IC07.
In April 2013, VR decided to exercise the option enshrined in this contract and to purchase 13 more Class Edo cars (and 11 Class ERd restaurants). These total of 25 driving trailers with a maximum speed of 200 km/h, characterised by the letter "o" in the class designation, were received by the VR in 2013 - 2015.
And then, in March 2015, VR ordered 17 driving trailers, which were delivered in 2016 - 2017, bringing the Class Edo fleet to 42. Then in August 2017, the option from the latter contract was confirmed when VR ordered 20 Clas Ed double-deckers, which were delivered in 2019. The driving trailers are not used in the night trains, as these have car-carriers at the rear end, and there is no need for quick turnarounds at termini, as is the case with daytime trains.
Finally, the Class Edg was added to the fleet of daytime IC cars in 2021, but it was also created by converting the interior of the existing Class Ed cars to provide storage space for luggage and bicycles. The first car to go out in this way was Edg 28012 in May 2021, and by January 2022 a total of ten had been converted.
In total, therefore, VR had 213 double-deckers for daytime travel in February 2023, as follows:
- 128 cars of the Class Ed with inventory numbers 28001 - 28128 (of which 42 were converted to the Class Edb (now CEd) cars with the numbers 28401 - 28443 and ten cars were converted to the Class Edg),
- 12 cars of the Class Eds with inventory numbers 28201 - 28212,
- 31 cars of the Class Edfs with inventory numbers 28301 - 28331,
- 42 Class Edo driving trailers with inventory numbers 28601 - 28642.
In addition, VR operates a total of 33 Class ERd cars, where the letter "R" stands for restaurant. They have a top speed of 200 km/h, and are only used on daytime trains (older single-deck restaurant cars are used on night services). The Class Erd was built in three batches, which formed the fleet of 28701 - 28733.
The first batch was the result of the aforementioned framework contract concluded in March 2011 for 15 restaurant cars (and 12 Class Edo driving trailers). The second batch came from an option to this contract, confirmed in April 2013 for a further 11 restaurants (and 13 driving trailers). Production of the first batch of Class ERd cars began in November 2012 and the first car was delivered to VR on 19 December 2013. Deliveries continued until July 2014 and were smoothly followed by the second batch, completed by the end of 2015.
After that, seven more ravintola cars were ordered from Škoda Transtech in April 2019, and this third batch (already designated by VR as Project IC10) was delivered in 2021. With the addition of 213 daytime cars and the Class ERd cars, VR currently has a total of 246 double-deckers from Otanmäki.
The same family also includes the aforementioned 50 Class Edm sleepers, which received the inventory numbers 28501 - 28550 and of which:
- 40 were delivered in two batches of 20 each, in 2005 - 2006 and 2010 - 2011, on the basis of an order of twenty placed in 2003, which included an option for 20 sleepers,
- 10 delivered in 2016 - 2017 on a March 2015 order (which included 17 Class Edo driving trailers).
In total, VR has 296 double-deckers as of February 2023. With the addition of the nine sleepers ordered this January, this fleet will rise to 305 in 2025. Confirming the option for 30 sleepers would increase the total fleet to 335 double-deckers.
For the sake of completeness, let us add that VR currently has around 20 single-deck cars of various classes and age for long-distance InterCity services, and VR's goal is that in the future all long-distance passenger trains will have only double-deckers.
Discounts On Fares
In response to the difficult economic situation of citizens with rising prices due to the war in Ukraine, the Finnish Parliament decided last year to support public transport by temporarily changing the VAT rate from 10 % to zero from 1 January to 30 April 2023. From January to April, train tickets can thus be purchased at the tax-free price, regardless of the date of travel, as long as they are available. Even tickets that are already at a reduced price, such as for students, children and pensioners, are exempt from VAT during the period, which also applies to group and corporate fares.
The VAT discount also applies to charges for almost all additional services, such as seat reservations and special compartments on the upper deck of the "Extra" class car or the restaurant. Cars, pets and bicycles are also exempt from tax when purchased between 1 January and 30 April, except for cancellation fees, which are subject to a different tax rate and remain at the normal price. From 1 May 2023, the normal 10 % VAT rate will return to the price of tickets.
Elisa Markula, VR CEO, commented: "We welcome this government contribution to support public transport and especially Finns' daily mobility at a time when inflation is high and many households are looking for ways to save on everyday expenses. The VAT discount is linked to the time of purchase of the ticket, so spring is a good opportunity to take advantage of the discount also on subscription and serial tickets and get cheap travel up to a year in advance."
Jaromír Pernička in cooperation with VR and Škoda Transtech
1) An IC daytime service with Sr2 3241 near Orivesi, northeast of Tampere, on 6 May 2018. The train is crossing Lake Oriselkä, which has 258 ha, is 2.8 km long and 1.9 km wide. Behind the locomotive there is a Class Eds car (with compartments for families and immobile passengers), an ERd restaurant, a Class Edb car with Ekstra category (with a sign saying "pysyvästi lasketut hinnat", i. e. permanently lowered prices) and a Class Edo driving trailer at the end.
2) Until Summer of 2022 it was common to see the "camel" rakes, made up of a mixture of old "blue" cars and modern double-deckers, as shown in this photo of a train entering Rovaniemi station in the capital of Lapland, on 30 October 2012 with Sr1 3035 still in its former red and white livery. On the left is one of the Class Sm3 Pendolinos.
3) The contrast to the 12-car rake in the previous photo is this two-car service, which ran on the Rovaniemi - Kuopio (in central Finland) route. The „Sininen vaunu" lined up behind the double-decker had a small space for larger luggage, with the "Siberian Wolf" Sr1 3029 in the current VR paint. The photo from 23 May 2016 was taken at Oulu.
4) An example of the current very modern look of VR long-distance trains is this photo taken on 10 May 2022 at Helsinki Central Station (Helsingin päärautatieasema), showing a Vectron Sr3 3303 and an unidentified Lok 2000 of the Class Sr2 at the front of the double-deck rakes.
5) As the inscription in the middle of the sidewall says, the photo from Pieksämäki shows a dining car: ravintola means "restaurant", in the case of this style it is a pun on ravinto, which means "nourishment", and vaunu means "car" (if there is a "t" at the end, it is plural). Moreover, it is also a word play between Finnish and Italian as the "la" is emphasized. The inscription "Makuja matkalla" next to the picture of the figure means "Tastes on the go". Initially, VR named the cars Duetto Plus, however, it is no longer used for this concept of service. The restaurant and catering service provider is Avecra, part of the VR Group.
6 + 7) The Class Erd catering facilities are mainly concentrated on the lower deck, where the kitchen, counter and main dining area are located. A café section is in the area above one of the bogies, including a stage for entertainment performances. At the opposite end of the carriage is a serving area, also designed to serve passengers on the upper deck. The latter can be used as a regular section with seating or as a conference room for up to 41 people. The photo 6) shows the interior of the 1st and 2nd batches of the cars, while the photo 7) is from the 3rd batch, which differs in colour scheme and some equipment features.
8, 9, 10) VR invested in the refurbishment of the business class in IC trains creating the „Ekstra“ class. In line with customer wishes, the renewals included increased comfort and quietness, with wider seats and more legroom, a more spacious and comfortable toilet, and sound-absorbing carpeting, among others. The first Class CEd cars entered service in 2019 and in late 2021 the operator informed that all 42 cars have been renewed. The refurbishment was carried out by VR FleetCare.
11) Production of the bodyshells in Otanmäki on 13 June 2013.
12) Freshly completed double-deckers at the Otanmäki plant in late 2015. The letters of the Transtech name still shine through the new owner's logo on the hall.