LÄNSIMETRO    VÄSTMETRON

Western metro extension opened 18 Nov 2017 - Click on photo to explore each station:

Lauttasaari
Koivusaari
Keilaniemi
Lauttasaari Drumsö
Kouvusaari Björkholmen
Keilaniemi Kägeludden

 

Aalto Univeristy

 

Tapiola

 

Urheilupuisto

Aalto-yliopisto Aalto-universitetet
Tapiola Hagalund
Urheilupuisto Idrottsparken

 

Niittykumpu

 

Matinkylä

This line is further under construction with stations at

Finnoo Finno

Kaitaa Kaitans

Soukka Sökö

Espoonlahti Esboviken

Kivenlahti Stensvik

 

[Länsimetro Project Website]

 

Niittykumpu Ängskulla
Matinkylä Mattby
 

Your webmaster's impressions on the western metro extension during a visit in May 2018:

Let's take a look at the long-awaited, long-delayed western metro extension from Ruoholahti to Matinkylš. I had long planned to revisit Helsinki when this route opens, meant to go in the winter to enjoy a few days of real northern darkness, but when the "Lšnsimetro" finally opened without much prior announcement back in November 2017, I suddenly got ill and had to cancel my spontaneously booked trip (well, Finnair didn't have mercy on me, so I lost the money...). In the end I waited until they announced real good weather (20 degrees in May!) to decide for another spontaneous trip, now using easyJet who had recently taken over those slots from what used to be AirBerlin.

I have thoroughly looked at all eight new stations, took the escalators up and walked outside to see how the Metro is changing the areas its serves, and a lot is going on. Not so much at Lauttasaari and Koivusaari, both still on Helsinki territory, the first lying withing an already built-up area, and the latter at the western edge of the same island, so probably good to get off here for a nice stroll along the island's coastal paths. But there is no room form much development, so the station seems a bit of a waste of money! It's a pity that the entire extension was built deep underground, because a surface or elevated alignment would have provided nice views. Instead the tunnel was blasted rather deep under the seabed. I explored the route on a Saturday morning, so I didn't see the regular passenger movements. This is most apparent at Keilaniemi, where there are some new office blocks in a waterfront development around the station, but no-one there but a bored security guard.

Aalto Yliopisto (University) doesn't get very busy on Saturdays either, I took the eastern exit where some bus connections were shown, but ended up in a construction site for a huge university building. I walked around it hoping to find the western entrance in this wide-spread university campus, and luckily I headed more or less in the right direction until I found a small signpost indicating the entrance. I probably wouldn't have seen the entrance from that distance, especially as there was no logo pole visible. Once in front of the entrance I discovered one, but I think these should be placed to be spotted from a distance rather than just a sign at the entrance. And Helsinki does have a very nice and large logo recognisable from the distance!

All the stations have a rather distinctive ceiling decoration, stylish lamps in most cases, but Aalto University has a ceiling made of brown panels, creating a rather dark space. This becomes even more striking as you reach the following station Tapiola which is extremely bright and pleasant compared to Aalto University. Tapiola, somehow the eastern centre of Espoo with a lot of shops, is the terminus for every other train arriving from the east, but as for now, only the western exit is open, I guess due to construction work continuing on the surface and for an underground bus station. Getting out at Tapiola is extremely weird, several flights of escalators, for the last bit you can also opt for a lift (of course, you can take lifts at all stations, but it's not always faster, sometimes you need two lifts to reach the surface) or even climb a long set of stairs in the open-air. On the way back I discovered another route which makes you walk through the underground car park of a shopping mall. Tapiola not only has stylish hugh lamps hanging from the high ceiling, but also a cute huge girl with paint on her fingers, so she must have left those colour strokes visible along some walls as you access the station.

The distinction between line M1 and M2 is hardly visible anywhere, not on maps or screens, just on the electronic distination board inside trains which say e.g. "M1 Matinkylš" for those trains continuing beyond Tapiola. Urheilupuisto surprises with a high ceiling which continues the floating tiles used on the walls above the platforms, one of my favourites. Around this station as well as the following Niittykumpu, there is a lot of construction going on. Niittykumpu is different from the rest as the wall cladding features some proper colours, whereas in the other stations shades of black and white dominate. The entrance is directly integrated into a smaller shopping centre and somewhat hidden as not much orange is visible outside. Again, a logo pole placed on the street corner would help to identify the station entrance from some distance.

The current terminus at Matinkylš is certainly one of the highlights of this line, with its wide and barely obstructed platform covered by a swung white ceiling with a decent moving light effect. The station is integrated into a huge shopping mall and underground bus station (which may get less busy once the line is extended to Kivenlahti). Matinkylš only has an exit at the eastern end of the platform, although an emergency exit is available at the other end, too. From Matinkylä, I took buses 143 and 147 to explore the area of the forthcoming extension to Kivenlahti, which is also being built completely underground, though it partly runs through sparsely populated area. I could see several construction sites (easily recognisable by orange fences!), except at Espoolahti on the way back on bus 543, but maybe I looked in the wrong place there.

So, all in all I enjoyed the new extension despite some negative points: 1) deep alignment resulting in long accesses; 2) full underground alignment with no views, so for this the older eastern Metro is nicer; 3) contrary to a global convention, the strip map on the respective wall shows the entire line and not just the section served by the train from that platform. Most metros show the section not served by this train in a faded grey.

As I visited on a Saturday morning, I'm not able to confirm complaints I heard about overcrowding due to the fact that the new extension was only built with platforms long enough for 4-car trains instead of six on the older sections. This decision was taken in view of driverless running, a project cancelled during construction. It was certainly a huge mistake not to make provisions for platform lengthening! In many modern metros, planners thought that driverless operation would allow to reduce the scale of the stations, but many have regretted it, see Copenhagen or Lille. The slightest disruption may lead to extreme overcrowding of stations and trains, obstruction of doors and thus a complete collapse of the system. Helsinki is lucky to have probably the world's widest metro cars (3.2m!), so a 4-car train may carry as many people as an 8-car trains on Berlin's narrow lines U1-U4. The lack of provisions for longer platforms is the more incomprehensible as the stations seem to be built very generously, if not oversized, so the stations box or cavern would not really need more volume, just a different arrangement of the escalator and lift shafts, which now occupy the full width of the platform.

Compared to the shiny new stations, the old stations in the city centre appear rather dated. All stations have received new signage (and as if they were following my advice in my 2013 blog, Swedish now appears in normal font, while Finnish is in bold, and English if used, in italics!), but nothing else seems to have been done for many years. Ex-Kaisaniemi, now Helsingin Yliopisto would have deserved a major clean up with the station renaming, but also Rautatientori and Kamppi look rather worn-down and could do with a bit of modernisation.

Read full 2018 blog post (including tram and Airport Rail Line) here!

 


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