To Finland by sea, to Russia by rail
Finnish ports provide excellent access by rail to all parts of Russia. Border crossing poses no problem, as the two countries share an identical rail gauge.
Every day, hundreds of freight wagons pass through the four border stations on the Finnish-Russian border. As the two countries have identical rail gauges, there is no need for transshipment; only the engine is changed at the border. The division of labour is clear: VR hauls the wagons in Finland, Russian Railways takes over on the other side of the border. The most important border crossing is Vainikkala-Buslovskaya located on the route from Helsinki via St. Petersburg to Moscow. Some 60 per cent of all freight traffic and all passenger traffic between Finland and Russia pass through this station. Most of the traffic leaving ports in the Gulf of Finland for Russia is routed via Vainikkala. The other three border stations higher up north are Imatrankoski-Svetogorsk, Niirala-Vartsila and Vartius-Kivijarvi. All have sufficient capacity to accommodate increasing material flows. Dealing with large volumes of traffic calls for sound, practical cooperation. VR maintains a permanent office in Moscow.
Railway transport via Finland to Russia is a straightforward alternative. In addition to transport, VR Cargo provides a comprehensive eastern traffic service, comprising pick-up, storage, forwarding and wagon tracking. These additional services are provided either by VR Cargo or one of its partners. Goods with a fairly high added value, such as various types of machinery and equipment, electronics, paper products and consumer goods are exported east. Finnish ports have an advanced infrastructure and technological expertise. Port operations and forwarding are efficient and of high quality, shipping routes are in good condition and kept open throughout the winter. The fact that railways account for a larger share of overall freight traffic than in any other EU country is a good indication of the high quality of railway traffic in Finland. The excellent condition of the rail network and advanced transportation technology enable total costs on the Finnish route to be kept well under control. Quick wagon turnover is only one of the many advantages of this highly functional system. The transport of railway wagons from the Russian border to the ports at Hamina and Kotka for unloading and then back to the border only takes 72 hours.
Speedy customs procedures
Transport by rail via Finland is an option worthy of consideration for all freight heading west from Russia. The through traffic agreement between Finland and Russia concerning railway traffic ensures straightforward documentation, while advanced information technology enables the border authorities to begin processing documents well before a train's arrival. The consignee is also notified in advance of the arrival of a shipment. The Russian party notifies VR Cargo of arriving wagons, and VR Cargo then emails the information to customers. This advance notification allows customers to plan in advance for further measures, such as unloading and storage. Cargo arrives in the EU area once it crosses the Finnish border, and as soon as it has been cleared by customs, it can be freely transported within the EU. Imports from Russia via Finland consist mainly of mining industry products and liquid bulk goods. Nonetheless, Finland has also retained its position as a significant export route for Russian chemicals.
The VR Cargo organisation was restructured along procedural lines at the beginning of 2004 with two primary processes, sales and transport, underpinned by customer services. «An essential feature of the new organisation is customer-driven improvements in the sales process and service development, in collaboration with the transport process. Distinct customer groups have been identified in sales, which should enable us to improve our understanding of customer needs,» says VR Cargo Sales Director Petteri Sammalisto. Though sales are now organised nationally, attention is also paid to local peculiarities. «We want to be absolutely sure that our customer service and sales services stay in close proximity to the customer.» The following have been appointed Sales Manager and Key Account Manager for the sales process: Keijo Petelius (pulp and paper industry products), Jukka Joronen (pulp and paper industry raw materials), Juha Petajaniemi (chemicals industry), Tomi Ylanen (metal industry), Ilpo Rajapuro (combined transport), Teuvo Nurmi (special consignments), Tiina Makinen (eastern traffic) and Timo Mantyla (western traffic).
Independent limited company
In July 1995, VR or Finnish State Railways, which had until then been a state enterprise, became an ordinary limited company operating on regular business principles. This means, for instance, that railway tariffs in Finland are not determined by the state but by the company itself in line with market conditions. This enables VR to offer transport services independently and flexibly. The VR Group has an annual turnover of some USD 1 billion. VR owns 1,200 passenger carriages and 12,000 freight wagons as well as several road haulage and coach companies. VR, which has as yet never posted a loss, holds a 25 per cent market share of the Finnish transport market, a figure almost 10 per cent higher than the EU average.