“The war in Ukraine changes our focus, not our priorities”

Scandria®Alliance interviewed Elina Rantanen, Deputy Mayor of the city of Turku and member of the Scandria®Alliance. We wanted to know how far the new geopolitical situation influences the city’s transport policy priorities.


Scandria®Alliance: Elina, the city of Turku is an important node in the European transport network, between Stockholm and Helsinki. How is Turku affected by the geopolitical developments that occurred since 24 February 2022, the day Russia attacked Ukraine?

Elina Rantanen: Indeed, the geographical focus of our policy changed to some extent. Collaboration especially with St Petersburg had been an important part of our international policy. This suddenly stopped. However, this does not mean that our priorities regarding transport development in and around the city of Turku changed so much. For the city of Turku, the rail connection to Helsinki (so-called One Hour Train) as well as the ferry connection to Stockholm have been and are of crucial importance. As well as the decarbonisation of urban transport, as our goal is to become carbon-free by 2029.

Scandria®Alliance: Do you see a danger that a stronger focus on military mobility might shift priorities away from the projects, you just mentioned?

Elina Rantanen: Well, so far, I could not assess that a stronger focus to military mobility would have changed investment priorities at national level. Even before Finland’s access to NATO, the military clearly addressed its requirements, so they are reflected in the national transport policy. On the opposite, to make our transport system more resilient provides good arguments, for instance for the high-speed rail connection between Helsinki and Turku, as it increases connectivity between the capital cities of Helsinki and Stockholm. Investments into port infrastructure are necessary as well, to increase capacity and enable new connections, complementing the already existing ones, e.g. to Poland. Ports have an utmost important role in the Finnish security of supply. The restricting factor is and has always been the availability of financial resources, mainly at national level. The risk is not so much associated with the increased priorities of military mobility or resilience of the transport system but the limitations of state budget, especially under a stronger austerity policy focus by the current government in these times of a crisis.

Scandria®Alliance: Doesn’t the current proposal of the TEN-T regulation, that is still negotiated, provide a good fundament to support the city of Turku in reaching it goals: being connected, decarbonising transport and strengthening resilience?

Elina Rantanen: Yes and no. We support the intention to strengthen the role of urban in the TEN-T network and to put a stronger focus to alternative fuels. However, looking at the financial support dedicated to urban nodes which is at a level of 2% of the total CEF budget, this will certainly not be sufficient to significantly drive the transition in the urban nodes. As CEF as well as national and local budgets are limited, it seems rather difficult to get financial backing for both of our transport priorities – the One-Hour Train between Turku and Helsinki, and the new tram system we are planning in Turku. For a city like Turku such projects – although necessary – cannot be financed solely internally.

Port of Turku Ferry Terminal. © Port of Turku, Jarmo Piironen

Scandria®Alliance: What is the added value of international collaboration in this context?

Elina Rantanen: Collaboration with other cities, who are facing similar challenges as Turku, is very important. The city of Turku is member of various networks, like Eurocities, the Union of Baltic Cities or the Scandria®Alliance. This allows us, to identify common interests and to communicate much stronger towards decision makers at the European and national level.

Scandria®Alliance: Elina, thank you for the interview.

Elina Rantanen was interviewed by Sven Friedrich, INFRASTRUKTUR & UMWELT Professor Böhm & Partner supporting the Scandria®Alliance Secretariat