Railforum 2017 - Come Together, Right Now

RailForum 2017 provided a comprehensive overview of what’s happening on the tracks now and in the future. Hosted by news anchor Peter Nyman, the event attracted logistics professionals from around the world to Kuusankoskitalo, Kouvola, on 28 September. Under the heading, BREAKING NEWS, a panel of experts assembled to discuss all things rail.


The panel participants were Ilkka Seppänen, Director, VR Transpoint Oy; Jari Grönlund, Director, Unytrade Oy; Markku Koskinen, Director, HaminaKotka Satama Oy; Pasi Toivanen, Senior Customs Officer, Finnish Customs; Matti Toivanen, Managing Director, Kuehne + Nagel Ltd; Tomi Hautala, Managing Director, Propentus Oy.  

Addressing blockchain, which was one red-hot topic of the day, Matti Toivanen commented that blockchain has potential to turn the transport business upside-down with its power to eliminate friction in the logistics chain. Still, in the final analysis, the Kouvola – Xi’an connection lives and dies with its customers.

“You need the sufficient demand to make this long-term,” Toivanen pointed out.

Forget Borders

Tomi Hautala – whose company Propentus is involved in developing the breakthrough blockchain innovation for rail – remarked that neither data or goods should be deterred by national borders.

“We need to take people away from the equation wherever we can,” Hautala said, referring to the automated nature of blockchain.

Pasi Toivanen commented that the new connection has a good shot at success, since the necessary political will to make things happen is there – as the lack of that will has been the downfall of many previous projects. Jari Grönlund added that decision-making had now, finally, reached the highest level and that all partners are committed to the venture.

“Talking about the starting situation in Finland’s end, all we need is 41 containers a week to get things rolling.”     

Reaching 1K

According to Ilkka Seppänen, there’s capacity on the rails to form the “standard” container train which is 800 metres long. “When you have trains that are longer than one kilometre, that requires some special consideration, but it can be done, too.” 

Markku Koskinen points out that rail beats road in many regards: for one thing, there has been congestion in the past at the Finnish-Russian border stations with lines of trucks reaching on for kilometres.

“Nobody wants to go back to that situation, not when the train is faster and more convenient,” Koskinen said.

Hold the Cold

In addition, the cold chain has been streamlined to allow for extensive transport of food industry products.

“There’s still some peculiarities, which means, for instance, that one can export milk powder from Poland to Russia, but not from Finland to Russia,” said Matti Toivanen.

Tomi Hautala commented that the technology part is often the easy part – it’s dealing with laws and regulations that slows you down and frustrates you. Ilkka Seppänen noted that the situation is improving in that regard, too:

“Preliminary information on goods, for example, can be relayed electronically and fluently.”   

RRT Shows Promise

One big part of the equation is Kouvola’s Rail-Road Terminal (RRT) which plays a significant role in the creation of the local multimodal logistics platform. RRT is now in its second phase and the panel participants view the project as key for the over-all success of the new connection.

“So far, the terminal traffic is mostly trucks. The terminal has the capacity to handle one incoming container train per day,” Jari Grönlund said.   


Text by Sami Anteroinen, Dialog Designs Oy

Foto by Johannes Wiehn: A Panel of Experts discussing.