Major events after the end of the financial year
In February 2016, VR Group and the Ministry of Transport and Communications signed an agreement on the passenger services purchased by the ministry. In the same connection, the ministry increased the number of services that VR Group must continue to operate under its public service obligation until December 2016. The changes will come into effect in March 2016.
The passenger services purchased by the Ministry of Transport and Communications and operated by VR will be reduced because the ministry’s appropriations for the purpose are being cut. The cut in appropriations is EUR 12.3 million and it will affect both long-distance and commuter traffic. The agreement on the purchased services will remain in effect until the end of 2019.
The ministry has also decided that some of the passenger services that are no longer purchased must be operated by VR under its public service obligation. The number of train services will be cut by about nine per cent as a result of the reductions. The decisions mean that the exclusive services operated under the public service obligation and the losses arising from them will reach the maximum limit allowed in the agreement on the exclusive services (EUR 20 million).
As part of its competitiveness programme launched in 2015, VR closed ticket offices in 13 locations in January 2016. The ticket office in Kemijärvi will also be closed during 2016. After the closures, VR will have ticket offices at nine stations. Online and mobile applications have rapidly become the most popular channels for purchasing tickets for passenger trains. Already more than 85 per cent of all train tickets are sold outside ticket offices at stations. Train tickets are also sold at R-kiosks, ticket vending machines at stations, in VR Customer Care phone service, in a number of Matkahuolto outlets and on trains.
On 1 March 2015, the Board of Helsinki Region Transport (HSL) approved the agreement on commuter train operations and the maintenance of Sm5 trains. The agreement will be in effect until 26 June 2021. The Board of Directors of VR-Group Ltd approved the agreement on 9 March 2016.
On 25 January 2016, the Finnish Competition and Consumer Authority submitted a proposal for a penalty concerning Oy Pohjolan Liikenne Ab and VR-Group Ltd to the Market Court. Under the proposal, the penalty would amount to EUR 5,790,000. No provision on expenses for this has been made in the Group’s results. The Group has no other major disputes.
The new price scheme for passenger services was launched on 16 February 2016. Under the new scheme, average ticket prices are reduced by 25 per cent and there are fewer ticket options. Passengers can choose between a basic ticket and a saver ticket to which separately priced services can be attached. Discounts on social grounds are only granted from the price of the basic ticket. VR expects that the new pricing scheme will significantly increase the number or long-distance train passengers.