Helsinki

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Posted by sonny 03/24/2009 @ 07:12

Tags : helsinki, finland, europe, world

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Helsinki

The Helsinki Metro with its characteristic bright orange trains is the world's northernmost subway.

Helsinki ( listen (help·info); Swedish: Helsingfors, listen (help·info)) is the capital and largest city of Finland. It is in the southern part of Finland, on the shore of the Gulf of Finland, by the Baltic Sea. The population of the city of Helsinki is 577,928 (28 February 2009), making it the most populous municipality in Finland by a wide margin. The foreign-born population stands at around 10%.

Helsinki, along with the neighbouring cities of Vantaa (Vanda), Espoo (Esbo), and Kauniainen (Grankulla), constitutes what is known as the capital region, with over 1,000,000 inhabitants. The Greater Helsinki area contains 12 municipalities and has a population of over 1,300,000. The Greater Helsinki accounts for a quarter of the population of Finland, 29% of jobs, and a third of the GDP.

Helsinki is Finland's capital for business, education, research, culture, and government. Greater Helsinki has eight universities and six technology parks. Some 70% of foreign companies operating in Finland have settled in the Helsinki region. The immigration of rural residents has made it one of the fastest growing metropolitan areas in Europe.

Finland's main international airline hub, Helsinki-Vantaa Airport is 40 minutes from the city center, with direct flights around the world. The busy Helsinki–Tallinn route takes 1.5 hours by sea and 18 minutes by helicopter. Two other big cities in Finland, Tampere and Turku, can be reached in 1.5–2 hours by train and 1.5–2.5 hours by car.

The Swedish name Helsingfors ( or ) is the original name of the city of Helsinki, and is still the official Swedish name for the city. The Finnish name, Helsinki (pronounced with the stress on the first syllable: ), has been dominant in other languages for decades. The Swedish name Helsingfors comes from the name of the surrounding parish, Helsinge (source for Finnish Helsinki) and the rapids (in Swedish: fors), which flowed through the original town. It is often thought that the name Helsinge was given by the Swedish immigrants who came from the Swedish province of Hälsingland. Another explanation is that the names Helsingborg and Helsingør have derived from the Scandinavian word hals (neck), referring to the narrowest part of the river, i.e. the rapids .

In Helsinki slang the town is also called Stadi (from the Swedish word stad, meaning city) and Hesa in colloquial Finnish. Helsset is the North Sami name of Helsinki.

Founded in 1550 as a rival to the Hanseatic city of Reval (today: Tallinn) by King Gustav I of Sweden, the town of Helsinki struggled in its infancy. The fledgling settlement was plagued by poverty, wars, and diseases. For a long time it remained a small coastal town, overshadowed by the more thriving trade centers in the Baltic region. The construction of the Sveaborg (In Finnish Viapori, today also Suomenlinna) naval fortress helped improve its status, but it was not until Russia defeated Sweden in the Finnish War and annexed Finland as the autonomous Grand Duchy of Finland in 1809 that Helsinki began to develop into a major city.

In order to reduce Swedish influence in Finland, Czar Alexander I of Russia moved the capital from Turku, which had close ties to Sweden, to Helsinki. The Royal Academy of Turku, back then the only university in the country, was relocated to Helsinki in 1827 and eventually became the modern University of Helsinki. The move consolidated the city's new role, and the following decades saw unprecedented growth and development for the city, creating the prerequisites for the birth of the modern world class capital in the 20th century. This transformation is highly apparent in the downtown core, which was rebuilt in neoclassical style to resemble St. Petersburg. As elsewhere, technological advancements such as railroads and industrialization were a key factor behind the growth.

In the 1918 Finnish Civil War, Helsinki fell to the Red Guard on January 28, the first day of the war. The Red side gained control of the whole of southern Finland after minor hostilities. The Senate was relocated to Vaasa, although some senators and officials remained in hiding in the capital. After the tide of war turned against the Red forces, German troops fighting on the side of the Finnish White Guard recaptured Helsinki in April 1918. Unlike Tampere, Helsinki suffered relatively little damage in the war. After the White victory many former Red soldiers and collaborators were confined in prison camps across the country. The largest camp, having approximately 13,300 prisoners, was located on the former naval fortress island of Suomenlinna in Helsinki. Although the civil war left a considerable scar on the society, the standard of living in the country and the city began to improve in the following decade. Renowned architects such as Eliel Saarinen created utopistic plans for Helsinki, but they were never realized to full extent.

In the aerial bombings of the Winter War (1939–40) and the Continuation War (1941–44) Helsinki was attacked by Soviet bombers. The most intense air raids took place in the spring of 1944, when over two thousand Soviet planes dropped some 16,000 bombs in and around the city. However, due to successful air defense the city was spared from the large-scale destruction that many other cities in Europe under bombings of similar scale suffered. Only a small number of bombs hit populated areas. Several years after the war, the XV Olympiad (1952 Olympic Games) was held in Helsinki.

Despite the tumultuous first half of the 20th century, Helsinki continued to develop steadily. Finland's rapid urbanization in the 1970s, which occurred relatively late in the European context, tripled the population in the metropolitan area, making the Helsinki metropolitan area one of the fastest growing urban centers in the European Union in the 1990s. The relatively sparse population density of Helsinki and its peculiar structure have often been attributed to the lateness of the urbanisation. Thus today the Helsinki metropolitan area is the second most sparsely populated EU-capital after Brussels.

Helsinki is spread across a number of bays and peninsulas and over a number of islands. The inner city area occupies a southern peninsula, which is rarely referred to by its actual name Vironniemi. Population density in certain parts of Helsinki's inner city area is very high, reaching 16,494 inhabitants per square kilometer (42,719/sq mi) in the district of Kallio, but as a whole Helsinki's population density of 3,050 inhabitants per square kilometer (7,899/sq mi) ranks it as quite sparsely populated in comparison to other European capital cities. Much of Helsinki outside the inner city area consists of postwar suburbs separated from each other by patches of forests. A narrow, ten kilometer (6.2 mi) long Helsinki Central Park that stretches from the inner city to the northern border of Helsinki is an important recreational area for residents.

Some notable islands in Helsinki include Seurasaari, Lauttasaari and Korkeasaari – which is also the country's biggest zoo – as well as the fortress island of Suomenlinna (Sveaborg) and the military island of Santahamina.

The city has a temperate continental climate. Owing to the mitigating influence of the Baltic sea and Gulf stream, temperatures in winter are much higher than the northern location might suggest, with the average in January and February around −5 °C. Temperatures below −20 °C occur normally only for a week or two in a year. However, because of the latitude, days lasts less than six hours in the winter solstice, and the very cloudy weather accentuates the darkness. Conversely, Helsinki enjoys long days in summer, almost nineteen hours at the summer solstice. The average maximum temperature June through August is around 19 to 21 °C. The highest temperature ever recorded at city centre was 31.6 °C on July 18, 1945 and the lowest was -34.3 °C on January 10, 1987.

Carl Ludvig Engel (1778–1840) designed several neo-classical buildings in Helsinki. He was kept in Helsinki by a unique assignment, as he was elected to plan a new city centre all on his own. The city became shallow and wide at the time when most buildings had only two or three floors. The central point of Engel's city plan is the Senate Square, surrounded by the Government's Palace, the main building of the University, and the enormous Cathedral, which was finished in 1852, twelve years after C. L. Engel's death. Engel's neo-classical plan of the city centre has later given Helsinki the epithet The White City Of The North.

Helsinki is, however, perhaps even more famous for its numerous Art Nouveau (Jugend in Finnish) buildings, designed in the early 1900s and strongly influenced by the Kalevala, which is a very popular theme in the national romantic art of that era. Helsinki's Art Nouveau style is also featured in large residential areas such as Katajanokka and Ullanlinna. The master of the Finnish Art Nouveau was Eliel Saarinen (1873–1950), whose architectural masterpiece was the Helsinki central railway station.

Helsinki also features several buildings by the world-renowned Finnish architect Alvar Aalto (1898–1976), attributed as one of the pioneers in functionalism. Many of Aalto's works are either loved or hated. Aalto's buildings, such as the headquarters of the paper company Enso and the concert and congress house Finlandia Hall, have sparked much debate amongst Helsinki's inhabitants.

In addition to Aalto's work, there is a body of other noteworthy functionalist architecture in Helsinki, such as the Olympic Stadium, the Tennis Palace, the Rowing Stadium, the Swimming Stadium, the Velodrome, the Glass Palace, the Exhibition Hall (now Töölö Sports Hall) and Helsinki-Malmi Airport. The sports venues were built to serve the 1940 Helsinki Olympic Games (canceled due to the Second World War), but eventually got to fulfill their purpose in the 1952 Olympic Games. Many of them are listed by DoCoMoMo as significant examples of modern architecture. The Olympic Stadium and Helsinki-Malmi Airport are in addition catalogued by the National Board of Antiquities as cultural-historical environments of national significance.

During the 1960s and 1970s many aesthetically and historically important houses were swiftly demolished to make room for the rapidly expanding city and instead houses presenting more values of functionalism were built. This has later been widely regarded as a bad move and has led to a strong protectionism of old buildings in Helsinki. The plans made during the era of rapid growth expected Helsinki to have well over one million inhabitants at the turn of the millennium. Much due to the strong protectionism of today there are still many areas left with distinctive old wooden houses, such as Käpylä, Kumpula, Toukola and Puu-Vallila.

As a historical footnote, Helsinki's neoclassical buildings were often used as a backdrop for scenes set to take place in the Soviet Union in many Cold War era Hollywood movies. Some of the more notable ones are The Kremlin Letter (1970), Reds (1981) and Gorky Park (1983). Because some of the streetscapes were reminiscent of Leningrad's and Moscow's old buildings, they were used in the production – much to some residents' dismay. At the same time the government secretly briefed its white-collar workers to make producing these, often clearly Soviet-negative, films in Helsinki as hard as possible due to diplomatic pressure from Moscow.

Helsinki has eighty-five members in its city council. The three largest parties are National Coalition (26), Greens (21), and Social Democrats (16).

The population of Helsinki is predominantly Finnish-speaking, with a sizable Swedish-speaking minority (6.1%). Also, 6.4% of the population are foreign citizens, and 9% have a first language other than Finnish or Swedish.

The city has Finland's largest immigrant population in both absolute and relative terms. There are people of over 130 nationalities resident in Helsinki. The largest groups are from Russia, Estonia, Sweden, but also large numbers of residents from Somalia, Serbia, China, India, Iraq and Germany.

The Helsinki metropolitan area generates approximately one third of Finland's GDP(koook). GDP per capita is roughly 1.5 times the national average, making Helsinki one of the wealthiest capitals in Europe. In 2004, the local economy grew by 3.2%. Helsinki's GDP per capita is one of the highest of any city in the world.

Since the 1950s, the economy has become largely service-based, although industries such as shipbuilding continue to employ a substantial number of people. Large service-based employers include the public sector and the information technology sector. Helsinki has many staffing agencies.

The metropolitan area is the location of choice for the headquarters of large Finnish companies as well as the regional headquarters of international companies. The Helsinki metropolitan area has the best availability of highly skilled employees in Finland, and good infrastructure and business support systems. Since June 2007, the city centre has hosted the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA), which has led to the relocation of several hundred international experts and their families to Helsinki.

The distribution of affluent to middle and working class neighbourhoods is relatively even in Helsinki. Expensive real estate is located on the main peninsula as well as on the coastline from west to east. Some neighbourhoods in the northwest and eastern parts show slightly higher unemployment levels and have more immigrants. Helsinki is also losing companies to Espoo. Improving the economy of Helsinki and cooperation between the municipalities of the Helsinki conurbation are seen as major future challenges for the economic development of the region.

Helsinki's population growth has been steady for some time even though intra-areal migration has favoured Espoo and surrounding areas until very recently. The population of Greater Helsinki grew by 14,500 in 2007 alone. The fastest growing area is the countryside belt between Ingå, Kirkkonummi, Vihti and Nurmijärvi and Pornainen, though absolute numbers were in hundreds between 2000–2004. Between 2000–2004 net migration in Helsinki was negative at −330 residents. 20–30 year olds compose a rough fifth of the population of Helsinki as opposed to a mere 14 percent in Finland as a whole.

The tap water is of excellent quality and it is supplied by 120 km (75 mi) long Päijänne Water Tunnel, the world's longest continuous rock tunnel. Bottled Helsinki tap water is even sold to countries such as Saudi Arabia.

The employment rate in the Helsinki metropolitan area stands at around 75% and employment growth has been good. Around 20% work in manufacturing and construction, compared to 10% in London and 30% in Milan. In private-sector services the distribution is that 34.5% work in trade, 17% in transport, 8% in hotels and restaurants, 5.7% in financial services, and 34.5% in other market services.

The metropolitan area's gross value-added per capita is 200% of the mean of 27 European metropolitan areas. It equals Stockholm or Paris. The gross value-added annual growth has been around 4%.

83 of the 100 largest Finnish companies are headquartered in Greater Helsinki. Two-thirds of the 200 highest-paid Finnish executives live in Greater Helsinki and 42% in Helsinki. The average income of the top 50 earners was 1.65 million euro.

Helsinki has 190 comprehensive schools, 41 upper secondary schools and 15 vocational institutes. Half of the 41 upper secondary schools are private or state-owned, the other half municipal. Higher level education is given in eight universities (see the section "Universities" below) and four polytechnics.

The biggest historical museum in Helsinki is the National Museum of Finland, which displays a vast historical collection from prehistoric times to the 21st century. The museum building itself, a national romantic style neo-medieval castle, is a tourist attraction. Other major historical museum is the Helsinki City Museum, which introduces visitors to Helsinki's 500 year history. The University of Helsinki also has many significant museums, including the University Museum and the Natural History Museum.

The Finnish National Gallery consists on three museums: Ateneum Art Museum for classical Finnish art, Sinebrychoff Art Museum for classical European art, and Kiasma Art Museum for modern art. The old Ateneum, a neo-renaissance palace from 19th century, is one of the city's major historical buildings, whereas the highly modern Kiasma is probably the most debated building in Helsinki.

Helsinki has three major theatres: The Finnish National Theatre, the Helsinki City Theatre, and the Finland Swedish Svenska Teatern. The city's main musical venues are the Finnish National Opera and the Finlandia concert-hall. Bigger concerts and events are usually held at one of the city's two big ice hockey arenas: the Hartwall Areena or the Helsinki Ice Hall. Helsinki has Finland's largest fair centre.

Helsinki is considered as one of the main hubs of popular music in Northern Europe, many widely renowned and acclaimed bands have originated in Helsinki, including Norther, Wintersun, Ensiferum, HIM, The Rasmus, The 69 Eyes, Hanoi Rocks, Apocalyptica and Stratovarius.

Helsinki Arena hosted the Eurovision Song Contest 2007, the first ever Eurovision Song Contest arranged in Finland, following Lordi's win in 2006.

Helsinki has a long tradition of sports: the city gained much of its initial international recognition during the 1952 Summer Olympics, and the city has since then been very open to arranging sporting events. Helsinki hosts fairly successful local teams in both of the most popular team sports in Finland, football and ice hockey. The latter is a sport of passion for many Helsinki residents, who usually take a stance for either of the local clubs HIFK or Jokerit. The strong culture of ice hockey has led to Helsinki becoming the birthplace of many legendary National Hockey League stars such as Teemu Selänne, Jari Kurri and Esa Tikkanen. Helsinki also houses HJK, Finland's largest and most successful football club.

Helsinki also sees the development of other sports like rugby. There are two amateur clubs in Helsinki: Helsinki rugby club and the Warriors rugby club.

Helsinki has several ring roads: Kehä I, Kehä II, and Kehä III. From central city to east and west, there are Itäväylä and Länsiväylä. From the central city to north, there are several routes. There is a proposal to build a Stockholm-like tunnel under the central Helsinki to hide cars from streets. Central Helsinki has popular underground parking facilities.

Helsinki has some 390 cars per 1000 inhabitants. This is less than in cities of similar density, for instance, Brussels' 483 per 1000 and Stockholm's 401, and Oslo's 413.

Public transportation is generally a hotly debated subject in the local politics of Helsinki. In Helsinki, public transportation is mostly managed under Helsinki City Transport, the city's transportation authority. The diverse public transport system consists of trams, commuter rail, the subway, bus lines and two ferry lines. The Helsinki Metropolitan Area Council manages traffic to the surrounding municipalities of Espoo, Vantaa and Kauniainen.

Today, Helsinki is the only city in Finland to have trams or subway trains. There used to be two other cities in Finland with trams: Turku and Viipuri (Vyborg, now in Russia), but both have since abandoned trams. The Helsinki Metro, opened in the year 1982, is so far the only subway system in Finland. In 2006, the construction of the long debated extension of the subway system west into Espoo was approved, and serious debate about an eastern extension into Sipoo has taken place.

Air traffic is handled primarily from the international Helsinki-Vantaa Airport, located approximately 19 kilometres (12 mi) north of Helsinki's downtown area, in the neighbouring city of Vantaa. The airport provides scheduled non-stop flights to many important cities in Europe, Asia and North America. Helsinki's second airport, Malmi Airport, is mainly used for general and private aviation.

Ferry connections to Tallinn and Stockholm are serviced by various companies. Finnlines passenger-freight ferries to Travemünde, Germany are also available, while Tallink began service to Rostock, Germany in 2007. Copterline has provided fast (18 min.) helicopter flights to Tallinn.

Kustaanmiekka strait through Suomenlinna Sea Fortress in middle of may.

Helsinki Olympic Stadium Tower, offers a good view over Helsinki.

Helsinki Central railway station.

Rooftops of the southern inner city districts.

Finnish National Theatre.

The Uspenski Orthodox cathedral.

Altar of Temppeliaukio Church that is built underground.

Hietaniemi beach.

The Esplanadi Park in central Helsinki in early june.

The Senaatintori square on a winter morning in december.

Stockmann department store along the Aleksanterinkatu's Christmas street.

Helsinki market square in winter.

The National Museum of Finland is located in Helsinki.

The Pohjoisranta at night.

Central Helsinki in evening.

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University of Helsinki

University of Helsinki

The University of Helsinki (Finnish: Helsingin yliopisto, Swedish: Helsingfors universitet) is a university located in Helsinki, Finland since 1829, but founded in the city of Turku 1640 as The Royal Academy of Turku. It is the oldest and largest university in Finland with the widest range of disciplines available. Around 38,000 students (including 5,500 post-graduate students) are currently enrolled in the degree programs of the university.

Since August 1, 2005 the University complies with the standards of the Europe-wide Bologna Process and offers Bachelor's, Master's, Licenciate's and Doctoral degrees.

The university is a member of the LERU, Unica (Universities in the Capitals of Europe), Utrecht Network and the Europaeum and places heavy emphasis on high-quality research.

The university was founded in 1640 by Count Per Brahe in Turku, as the Royal Academy of Turku (Latin: Regia Academia Aboensis). It was the third university founded in the Swedish Empire, following Uppsala University and the Academia Gustaviana in Dorpat, the predecessor of the University of Tartu in Estonia.

In 1809, Finland became an autonomous grand duchy in subjugation to imperial Russia, wherefore the name of the academy in Turku was modified to be Imperial Academy of Turku. Following the great city fire of Turku in 1827 and the move of the capital of the Grand Duchy of Finland, under Russian rule since 1809, to Helsinki, the university was relocated there starting from 1829 and Nicholas I re-named it Imperial Alexander University of Finland in honor of his late brother and predecessor Tsar Alexander I of Russia, who had given new resources to the academy. This university was the practical center of Finnish culture in 19th century, and a remarkable cradle of nationalist movements, liberalization demands, political parties, collections of cultural materials, and student activities. It was named the University of Helsinki after Finland became independent in 1917.

The main building of the university, which was designed by Carl Ludvig Engel, was completed in 1832. It is located next to the Senate Square in the heart of Helsinki's neoclassical centre, facing the Cathedral and the Government's Palace. Most of the important buildings in the City Centre Campus, such as the University Library, the Observatory and several faculty buildings, are also designed by Engel.

The university is located on four main campuses. Originally, the entire university was located in the very centre of Helsinki, but due to the rapid growth of the university since the 1930s, premises have been built and acquired in other areas.

The historical City Centre Campus has been the hub of activity ever since the university moved from Turku to Helsinki in the early 19th Century. The campus has a central location and reflects the architectural style of this part of the city. The university buildings in the city center house the Faculties of Theology, Law, Arts, Behavioural Sciences and Social Sciences plus administrative functions. Most of the buildings on the campus have a major architectural significance.

The Kumpula Campus, housing the Faculty of Science, is located four kilometers from the centre of Helsinki.

The Meilahti Campus, with the Faculty of Medicine, is a part of the Meilahti Hospital District on the outskirts of the city centre.

The Viikki Campus is located in a semi-rural area of Viikki, some 8 kilometres north-east of the city centre. It houses the Faculties of Agriculture and Forestry, Biosciences, Veterinary Medicine and Pharmacy.

The university also comprises several independent institutes, such as research centres and libraries, the most notable of which is perhaps the National Library of Finland.

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Helsinki tram

Helsinki tram map 2008-08-10.png

The Helsinki tram network forms part of the Helsinki public transport system managed by Helsinki City Transport in the Finnish capital city of Helsinki. The trams are the main means of transport within the city centre. 56.6 million trips were made in 2004, which is more than those made with the Helsinki Metro. The Helsinki tram network is one of the oldest electrified tram networks in the world.

Since 1999, new low-floor trams have been gradually introduced to operation, but technical difficulties have slowed down this progress. In 2004, Helsinki City Transport bought old 8-axle trams from Germany for cover during this transitional phase.

There are 12 tram lines in operation as of 5 January 2009 (2009 -01-05). Lines 3B and 3T will be realigned on 30 March 2009, coinciding with the opening of new tram tracks into Kamppi and a cut-through along Mikonkatu, near to the Central railway station. The route for Line 3 trams will continue to be a "figure-of-8", but with trams changing route number twice per circuit. Line 3T will be an 'S'-shaped half (Olympia Terminal—Senate Square—Central Railway station—Kamppi—Töölö—Eläintarha), and Line 3B will be the corresponding 'Z'-shaped half (Eläintarha—Hakaniemi—Central Railway station—Eira—Olympia Terminal) continuing around to the start. The two halves of the will route overlap along Kaivokatu, past Helsinki Central railway station. Incidentally, this means that only the Line 3T half will make use of the new Kamppi/Mikonkatu track sections, with Line 3B following the previous 3B/3T route.

Museum traffic will be initiated during the summer of 2009 on a counter-clockwise circular route Market Square—Kruununhaka—Central railway station—Market Square. During 2009 the traffic will be limited to selected summer weekends, utilising the 1930-built tram number 157 and the 1919-built open trailer 233. More extensive museum traffic will be initiated in 2010. The museum traffic will be jointly operated by Helsinki City Transport and Stadin Ratikat. As of 15 March 2009, no information has been given as to what line number will be assigned to the museum line.

The tram network is built almost exclusively on the streets of Helsinki, making it a traditional tram system, not a light rail one. The tracks have a track gauge of one metre. The network consists almost exclusively of double track. In some parts the tracks are separated from other road traffic, whereas elsewhere tracks lie on lanes that cars and buses may also use.

The trams are powered with electricity that is conveyed by overhead wires. Trams have their own traffic lights, which are distinguished from normal lights in that they are based on symbols of single colour: an upward-pointing arrow signifies "go", a horizontal line "prepare to stop" and the letter S "stop". The traffic lights are synchronised to allow tram and bus traffic to flow relatively smoothly. This system is called HeLMi (Helsinki Public Transport Signal Priority and Passenger Information).

As of 2008, there are four tram depots/workshops in Helsinki; HKL-maintained depots in Töölö, Vallila and Koskela, and a Bombardier Transportation-maintained workshop at Pasilan konepaja.

Planning process is underway (as of October 2008) for excavating a new underground tram depot in the base rock below the existing Vallila depot and adjacent city blocks. The underground depot is planned to have facilities for housing 180 trams plus repair facilities and staff parking spaces. The underground depot would partially or completely replace the Koskela depot, which is inconviniently located far from normally operated tram lines and would require a major reconstruction if kept in use. An alternative is rebuilding and expanding the Koskela depot, but this is projected to be more expensive than the planned underground depot.

HKL are planning to acquire an additional forty trams, to be delivered 2009–2016. €59 million have been allocated for this purpose for the years 2009-2011. In addition to the 40 trams to be initially acquired, the call for bids for the acquisition of new trams also includes three options for a total of 90 additional units that can be utilised within 72 months of the signing of the initial contract.

In preparation for the acquisition of new trams, in 2007–2008 one CROTRAM TMK 2200 type tram built in Croatia was used for test running in Helsinki. Due to the hilly nature of Helsinki's tram network compared to that of Zagreb (for which the TMK 2200 type was designed), the TMK 2200 could only be operated on the relatively flat-terrain lines 6 and 8. The tram performed technically without problems. Passenger feedback was largely negative, but mostly concerned issues—such as the seating arrangements—that would be changed if the type were mass-produced for HKL. At least ten different tram manufacturer have reportedly expressed interest in supplying the new trams in the call for bids that was opened in late 2008. In addition to CROTRAM, at least Stadler Rail, Heiter Blick (in collaboration with Vossloh), Škoda and Siemens are presumed to be amongst the companies interested in submitting tenders. The last date for potential suppliers to submit their tenders is 18 March 2009.

The HKL have also made designs for a tram concept of their own, which would be optimised for Helsinki's tram network. It is not known if these designs will be realised or which company would build them should they be brought to production. The designs drawn up by the HKL are very similar to the VAMOS Helsinki design that Heiter Blick and Vossloh are believed to submit in their tender.

To ease the construction of new tram tracks into Jätkäsaari in 2009-2015 (see below) the acquisition of double-ended trams is also under consideration. No new trams are available to be delivered by the time these are needed, therefore the only option is to acquire these trams second-hand.

Today, Helsinki is the only city in Finland to still have tram traffic. Two other Finnish cities—Turku (see Turku tram) and Vyborg (Finnish: Viipuri, Swedish: Viborg, Russian: Вы́борг; now part of Russia)—have had tram systems. Vyborg abandoned its trams in 1957, after the city had been ceded to the Soviet Union following the result of World War II. Turku stopped its trams in 1972.

The first proposals for the construction of a tram system into Helsinki were made in 1870s, but they were at the time unsuccessful. Public transport in Helsinki was initiated in 1988 by Helsingin omnibussiosakeyhtiö, using horse-drawn omnibuses. In 1889 Helsingin Omnibussiosakeyhtiö acquired the right to construct tram lines in Helsinki. The following year the company changed its name in Helsingin raitiotie- ja omnibussiosakeyhtiö (abbreviated HRO). Electric traction was considered as a power source for the new system, but due to lack of funds and the city council's negative attitude towards electric trams, the decision was made to use horse-drawn trams instead. The new system was built to a rail gauge of one metre. Test traffic started in December 1890, but the network wasn't officially opened for traffic until June 1891. The capacity of the horse tram system soon proved insufficient, but the changeover into electrified trams was postproned while waiting for the price of electrification of the network to drop.

The slowness of the electrification process was the source of conflict within the HRO, and during the latter half of the 1890s Julius Tallberg acquired the right to construct an orbital tram system around the city, that would have linked together the existing HRO lines and parts of the city not covered by the HRO lines. Following negotiations Tallberg and his associates transferred the construction permit of the orbital line to the HRO in return for a large number of HRO stocks.

In 1897 HRO received the right to construct an electrified tramway into Helsinki. A call for bids was sent out the following year, and the contract was awarded to the Germany-based O.L. Kummer. By terms on the agreement Kummer had to construct and electrify the new tram system as well as construct the trams used on it, and the company would be responsible for trafficking the new system for up to three years in order to ensure good quality of construction. Electrification of the network was mostly completed in 1900,with one short horse-drawn line lingering until 1901. Kummer had made notable profits from operating the new electrified system, and already in 1901 HRO assumed responsibility for operating the tram network. Following the electrification the number of lines grew into four, but all lines remained single-track. At the same time colours were taken into use as line identifiers.

Within a few years the single-track lines proved insufficient to meet the passenger demand, but the majority of stock owners were unwilling to fund the conversion into double track, while Julius Tallberg and his associates were strongly for the conversion. In 1906 Tallberg and his supporters acquired a stock majority in the HRO, and during the same year the company applied for and received a permission to convert their track network into double track. The contract also specified certain lines that HRO had to operate, as well as certain extensions that had to be built.

The contract for converting the tram network into double track was awarded to the Swedish ASEA. Conversion work begun in 1908 and was completed in 1910. From 1908 until 1919 ASEA also supplied the HRO with a total of 78 trams and 70 trailers. In 1909 Brändö Villastad Ab, a company constructing a garden city in the island of Kulosaari (then a part of Helsingin maalaiskunta), and HRO reached an agreement for linking Kulosaari into the Helsinki tram network. The track onwards from the existing HRO line in Sörnäinen was built by Brändö Villastad Ab, who was also responsible for the upkeep of the track, as well as the tram ferry required to cross the Kuorekarinsalmi sea area between Sörnäinen and Kulosaari. Traffic on the new connection was operated by HRO, and service begun in 1910 using existing HRO trams. In 1916 Brändö Spårvägsaktiebolag, which had been created as a separate company to take care of the Kulosaari tram tracks, ordered two new trams of its own. Due to World War I these were not delivered until 1919, and even after they had been delivered HRO remained in charge of trafficking the line. In 1919 a bridge between Kulosaari and the mainland was also completed.

In 1913 the HRO begun expanding its tram network for the first time since 1901, when the tracks were expanded from Hakaniemi to Alppila. During the same year the City of Helsinki acquired the stock majority of HRO, but HRO remained an independent company. The following year the network was also expanded into Taka-Töölö and Hermanni. After this the World War I made it impossible to acquire electric wires and points required for construction.

The construction of non-HRO owned tram lines continued when in 1914 new tram tracks owned by Aktiebolaget M.G. Stenius were opened to traffic, linking the existing HRO tracks in Töölö to Munkkiniemi and Haaga. As with the Kulosaari tramline, HRO was responsible for trafficking on these lines. In 1926 HRO acquired Aktiebolaget M.G. Stenius and two years later Brändö Spårvägsaktiebolag also passed under HRO ownership. As a result HRO again became the sole owner and operator of trams in Helsinki. During the same year line numbers and letters were taken into use as line identifiers alongside colours.

The tram network reached its apex in 1930, when the network covered a larger area than ever before of after (as of 2008), and there were 14 lines in operation.

In the end of 1944 the City of Helsinki had acquired the entirety of HRO, which now became a municipal transport authority under the name Helsingin Kaupungin Liikennelaitos (HKL). This had little to no effect in tram operations. In 1950 secondary line identifier letters were taken into use to distinguish rush hour services from the standard routes (for example 1A, KA. The second letter was a capital letter but in a smaller size from the first). In 1953 the usage of letters as the primary line identifier ended, and the following year line colours were also abandoned.

Trams remained the main public transport system until the 1950s and 1960s, when the city rapidly sprawled and private cars became increasingly common; the new suburbs came to be served mainly by buses and commuter trains. During the 1940s and 1950s plans were drawn for a large light rail network incorporating into the tram system, which would have served major suburban centers; in preparation for this the new Kulosaari bridge (built 1956) featured a reserved space for tram tracks, while the new tram depot was built in Koskela next to a planned northeast light rail line—new tracks had to be built linking the depot to the existing network. As of August 2008, this track along the north end of Sturenkatu has never been used in normal passenger traffic. During the 1950s a total of 105 Finnish-built double-bogie trams (Karia types HM IV and HM V, Valmet types RM 1 and RM 3) were delivered to the HKL.

During the 1960s all plans for expanding the tram network were put on hold while resources were concentrated on the planning of the metro and additional bus connections. At the same time plans were drawn for the termination of the tram network by the year 2000. In 1969 Helsinki city council made the decision that in the future tramlines would be confined to the inner city, while the metro would serve the suburban areas; the tram system would be terminated, at earliest in the year 2000. This decision required the acquisition of new trams to replace the last two-axle trams, the oldest of which dated from the 1920s. Originally the plan was to acquire fairly new second-hand articulated Düwag GT6 trams from Copenhagen, but the deal fell through and in the end new articulated trams were acquired from Valmet (type Nr I) in 1973–1975. These trams were planned to be the last trams to be acquired for traffic in Helsinki. In a break from tradition the Nr I trams were originally painted in an orange/grey colours scheme instead of the traditional green/yellow, integrating their visual appearance with the Dm 8 and Dm 9 express DMUs of the Finnish State Railways, as well as the Helsinki metro, which was in testing phase at the time.

During the early 1970s the decision to terminate the tram system was reconsidered and eventually reversed. In 1976 the tram network was expanded for the first time since 1955, when the new connection into East-Pasila was opened (present Line 7). Another expansion was opened in 1980, when tracks in Katajanokka were expanded eastward to a new residential area (present Line 4). In 1981 another group of articulated trams, based on the Nr I type, were ordered from Valmet. Classified as Nr II, these trams were delivered between 1983 and 1987, allowing the withdrawal of the majority of the 1950s-built trams (types HM IV and RM 1 in their entirety), as well as withdrawal of all trailers. In 1985 the tram network was extended to West-Pasila (present Line 7). Around the same time the tram lines were radically reorganised.

The next expansion of the track lineage occurred in 1991, when the connection from Ruskeasuo to Pikku-Huopalahti was opened (present Line 10). From 1999 onwards, HKL purchased a new fleet of low-floor Variotram trams from ADtranz (Bombardier Transportation since 2001). The new generation trams suffered from persistent technical difficulties and frequent break-downs; the entire batch having been refitted by the manufacturer in Germany. To cover for the missing trams, the city had to buy ten second-hand trams from Mannheim, Germany. To help pay for the second-hand trams, HKL was allowed to cover most of the extra trams completely in advertising, a sight rarely seen before on the streets of Helsinki. In 2004 the network was expanded again, this time by lengthening the tracks from Arabia into the new residential development area in Arabianranta (present Line 6+8). On 2008-08-10 the new line number 9 was opened, connecting Kolmikulma in central Helsinki to East-Pasila and replacing bus line number 17. This marked the opening of the first new tramline in Helsinki since the (re-)opening of line 2 in 1976, and the first time that a bus line had been replaced with a tram line.

During the history of tram traffic in Helsinki, the routes of various lines have been altered, sometimes radically, and line designations have been changed or swapped between different routes. For instance, the still-existing line 1 (also knows as the green line 1900–1926) has run on 22 different routes/route variants since the line was first opened in 1890. The following is a simplified list designed to give a basic impression of what the tram network was like during different eras. Various short-lived route changes and rush hour services are ignored to ease reading.

In addition to the lines owned by Helsingin Raitiotie- ja Omnibussiosakeyhtiö, one line was owned by Brändö Spårvägsaktiebolag, two lines by Aktiebolaget M.G. Stenius as well as one line owned by Julius Tallberg in Lauttasaari.

In 1926 HRO acquired both Aktiebolaget M.G. Stenius and two years later Brändö Spårvägsaktiebolag, becoming the sole tram operator in Helsinki. During 1926 year numbers and/or letters were taken into use as identifiers of different lines alongside colours.

The usage of letters as the main line identifier ended in 1953. Line colours were abandoned in 1954.

The freight harbour area in Jätkäsaari will be freed for residential construction in late 2008 when the new freight harbour in Vuosaari is opened. A tram connection tying the new area into the city center is in advanced planning stages. In the most recent proposal, approved by the public transport council on 11 December 2008, line 8 will be expanded into the new area from the north and another line (possibly line 9) from the east via Kamppi. By 2025 line 6 will be rerouted from its current terminus at Hietalahti south to Munkkisaari. An earlier proposal featured the extension of lines 6, 8 and 9 into Jätkäsaari, but this was subsequently altered. Tracks are planned to be built as housing construction of the area advances, with the first sections to be laid in 2009. Phase 1 of the extension is to be completed in 2010, phase 2 in 2011 and the final third phase after 2015. To eliminate the need of building temporary return loops as the construction progresses, the acquisition of second-hand double-ended trams to be used on lines extending into Jätkäsaari is under consideration.

New residential areas are to be constructed to the island of Laajasalo, to the east of Helsinki city center, between 2010 and 2025. Following a recommendation by the public transport council, the Helsinki city council decided on 12 November 2008 that the new residential areas would be linked to the Helsinki city center by a tram connection built on bridges from Kruununhaka via Tervasaari, Sompasaari and Korkeasaari across the Kruunuvuorenselkä sea area and into Kruunuvuorenranta. Three tram lines are projected to be constructed into Laajasalo; one will terminate in the residential development area of Kruunuvuorenranta, a second will extend into Yliskylä and a third line run into the southern central part of Laajasalo.

The main competing alternative, an extension of Helsinki Metro, was found to be notably more expensive to construct and was projected to attract smaller passenger numbers than the tram.

In addition to the approved three lines into Laajasalo, the city council approved a motion that in the further planning of the Laajasalo area tram, expanding the tram network to the Herttoniemi metro station should be investigated. Additionally, in case that the military base in Santahamina will be freed for residential construction in the future, provisions will be made for converting the tram lines into a light rail system that would extend into Santahamina in the south and travel in a tunnel from Korkeasaari to Katajanokka, linking with the planned North-South line of the Helsinki Metro.

Line number 9, opened in August 2008, was originally planned as early as 1990 to link Ilmala with Merikatu in southern Ullanlinna. However, in the first phase of construction the northern part of the route was truncated into Itä-Pasila in order to cut costs, while the southern terminus was placed in Kolmikulma due to opposition to tram tracks by people living along the planned new line, particularly due to the fact that the amount of parking space would have decreased along the streets where new tracks would have been laid. The connection to Ilmala is to be completed constructed 2010-2012, and to be opened for traffic in 2013.

Although shortly before the opening of line 9 HKL stated the continuation to Merikatu had been abandoned permanently, within weeks of the opening of the line extending the route to Merikatu was again proposed, due to complaints from inhabitants of Ullanlinna following the termination of bus line 17. Subsequently the HKL stated they would be "actively acting to expand the tramline to Merikatu". Interlacing the tracks on some sections on Korkeavuorenkatu is under consideration as a space-saving measure, allowing a larger amount of parking space to be maintained along the street. In addition to extending line 9 to Merikatu, plans have been made for extending line 9 into Jätkäsaari instead. Should Jätkäsaari be chosen as the southern terminus for line 9, a different line would be routed to Merikatu in its place.

In addition to lengthening the line, moving the line from Kaarlenkatu and Helsinginkatu to Fleminginkatu in Kallio was proposed on 10 October 2008.

Like the harbour area in Jätkäsaari, the freight harbour in Kalasatama will be freed for residential construction in late 2008 when the new freight harbour in Vuosaari is opened. Tram connection is considered as the means of connecting the new residential area with the city center (although there is also an existing metro station in the northern part of the area). Two tram lines are planned to be extended into the Kalasatama area, one from the west via Merihaka and another from the south, utilizing the Tervasaari-Sompasaari bridge that will be built for the Laajasalo tram connection.

A new tram line connecting Arabia (the current terminus of lines 6 and 8) and Pasila railway station (the current terminus of lines 7A, 7B and 9) via Kumpula, provisionally numbered 5, has been under discussion for some time. Several faculties of Helsinki University with up to 10,500 students are located in Kumpula. Additionally, the University of Art and Design Helsinki and Arcada School of Economics reside along the proposed tram link in Arabia. Many consider the existing bus connections from Kumpula and Arabia to Pasila railway station slow and unreliable. A plan to construct a road through Kumpula in an attempt to speed up bus line number 506, the current main public transportation link of the area, has been around for some time. This plan, however, has been heavily opposed by the residents of Kumpula area.

A study carried out by a group formed of members of the Finnish Tramway Society and students of Helsinki University of Technology proposes an alternative tram link. The proposed tram link would omit the need of constructing the strongly disputed public transportation road through Kumpula. The suggested alternatives for the tram line would either utilise the disused freight railway line in Southern Kumpula or only existing tram tracks, including a currently disused stretch on Sturenkatu between Mäkelänkatu and Hämeentie. The proposed connection would need only four trams with departures every ten minutes. The study was done as voluntary work.

In 2006 a study named Ratikka 2015 ("Tram 2015"), a proposal was made for a tram connection to Jätkäsaari, Munkkisaari, Ilmala and Kalasatama as well as expanding the network to Munkkivuori. Variants proposed in the study also included several possibilities for additional track lineage within the main parts of the city already served by trams, as well as the creation of new lines, or even closing down existing lines. Although the HKL are planning on building a tram connection to Jätkäsaari, the route alternatives under consideration are not the same as proposed in the Ratikka 2015 study.

In 1990 a plan was made for a circular light rail route connecting Itäkeskus in eastern Helsinki to Leppävaara in western Espoo via various suburbs in eastern and northern Helsinki. The planned line was named Jokeri ("The Joker", after the playing card). Due to small projected passenger numbers the line was eventually realised in 2003 as a bus connection, with an upgrade into a rail service planned to be constructed after 2030. After the line was opened passenger numbers exceeded expectations and available capacity, and the planning process for converting the route to a light rail service was started in 2008. The rail-joker connection is planned to be realised either with a rail gauge of 1,000 mm (3 ft 3⅜ in), making it compatible with the existing Helsinki tram network, or a gauge of 1,524 mm (5 ft), making it compatible with the Helsinki Metro and the Finnish railway network. A previous study made in 2003 about the integration of a possible light rail system into the existing heavy rail -type Helsinki Metro had come to the conclusion that such an integration would be difficult without implementing large-scale changes to the Metro network, or alternatively would require the utilization of unpractical and expensive solutions for the light rail system.

According to a decision made in 2007, the construction of the rail-joker is to begin in 2016 at earliest. The preliminary project plan is due to be completed in 2009. In February 2009 it was reported that the cities of Helsinki and Espoo are now hoping to have the construction of the Rail-joker completed by 2016.

The possibility of extending line 1 (and 1A) to Käpylä railway station (or further to Oulunkylä) in the north and rerouting the same line through the disused tracks on Linjat in Kallio have been brought up as possible future projects to improve passenger numbers on the unpopular line.

In addition to the above, expansion of the tram network from Arabia to Viikki, Käpylä to Koskela and Pikku-Huopalahti to Haaga have been mentioned as potential long-term projects.

A construction of a light rail or tram system has also been proposed as a possible solution of arranging public transport in the area annexed by Helsinki from Vantaa and Sipoo on 1 January 2009. An extension of the Helsinki Metro was originally planned as the main form of public transport for this area, but on 20 February 2009 a newspaper reported that a light rail system is being studied as an alternative to spplement or supplant the Metro connection to this area. The annexed area is located in eastern Helsinki, and as such the proposed new system would be completely unconnected with the currently existing tram system. It could however connect with the Rail-joker in Itäkeskus.

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Source : Wikipedia