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Finland's railroad engineers to start national strike next week
Last Updated: 2017-08-11 16:34 | Xinhua
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HELSINKI, Aug. 10 (Xinhua) -- Finnish railroad engineers will start a national railway strike early next week in a protest against a governmental plan to open railway passenger routes to competition.

Currently, the state owned railroad company, VR has monopoly.

The protest action begins on Monday at 6 p.m. (1500 GMT) and trains will work again on Wednesday, said the railroad engineers union.

To bypass the problem caused by the wider gauge in Finland, future competitors to the state monopoly railroad will not have to purchase engines and cars, but could lease from the current stock.

So far, no pre-used cars and engines can be brought to Finland from Western Europe without costly alterations. The gauge in Finland is the same as in Russia. The situation dates back to the mid 19th century when construction of railroads started in Finland.

The government plans to neutralize the gauge based competitive edge of the current operating company. The work will be done through removing engine and car services from the current company and creating state owned companies for the service roles. The new companies will serve all operators impartially.

The chairman of the railroad engineers union, Tero Palomaki, said that long time railroad employees have gone through many savings and rationalization schemes, but now they are afraid of losing their jobs.

Palomaki said the union does not oppose competition, but it should be launched fairly.

In the plans, the service companies will not be required to yield major surplus, but will have to remain financially on their own. Employees fear the salary levels and working terms may worsen.

Opposition politicians have criticized the plan as just creating possibilities for foreign operators coming to Finland to benefit from what used to be the car and engine stock of VR.

One of the first to welcome the new business opportunities this week was a Finnish bus company owned by British transport investor Sir Brian Souter, business daily Kauppalehti reported.

Freight services have been open for competition since 2007, but so far very few competitors have ventured to start. Competition in passenger services would be finalized by 2026.

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