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Growth in traffic volumes gains momentum

Published on 14.10.2021

The lifting of pandemic-related restrictions can be clearly seen in the rising volumes of various modes of transport in July-September. Road traffic volumes have already recovered to almost pre-pandemic levels. In rail traffic, the volumes of cargo transport in particular are rising substantially. Growth has also begun in air traffic, albeit more slowly than in the rest of Europe.

Demand for the open traffic data produced by Fintraffic has increased significantly in the late summer and early autumn.

“Society is clearly recovering after the easing of pandemic restrictions. It’s noteworthy that all forms of public transport are recovering at a significantly slower rate than private car use. Now it’s important to ensure that the Finnish transport system doesn’t become permanently even more reliant on private cars due to the pandemic. In order to develop attractive traffic services as alternatives to private cars, the entire traffic sector must harness data and the opportunities of digitalisation more effectively than they do now, for instance. This is vital for improving the customer experience of traffic services, making everyday life easier, reducing the costs of companies and households, and cutting traffic emissions,” says Pertti Korhonen., CEO of Fintraffic.

Air traffic is recovering, but slower than in the rest of Europe

Air traffic in Finland recovered in July-September, but at a clearly slower rate than in the rest of Europe. This is due especially to the strict travel restrictions of China and Japan. Before the pandemic, Finland was one of the busiest European transit hubs for flight routes between Europe and Asia. In addition, air travel by Finns only picked up during the autumn.  Furthermore, the number of international travellers to Finland is only just now starting to grow again properly.

“After the summer, air traffic has clearly bounced back thanks to greater vaccination coverage and the relaxation of travel rules. We expect that at the end of this year, traffic in Finland will amount to about 65 per cent and at Helsinki Airport to around 55-60 per cent of volumes in 2019. However, our current forecast is that air travel in Finland will not recover to its 2019 level before 2023 or 2024,” says Raine Luojus, CEO of Fintraffic Air Navigation Services.

Fintraffic provides air navigation services both to airports and to airlines whose flights go through Finnish airspace.

Moderate growth in road traffic volumes

In July-September, traffic volumes on Finland’s roads returned to pre-pandemic levels. The volume of traffic on roads in July and September was the same as in 2019. However, volumes in August were slightly lower than in 2019.

The volume of road traffic in the first nine months of 2021 (1-9/2021 vs. 1-9/2019) was still about 6 per cent lower than in 2019 before the pandemic.

That said, traffic volumes have increased compared to 2020. The volume of road traffic in January-September 2021 was around 2.5 per cent higher than in the corresponding period of 2020.

“The volume of road traffic returned to almost pre-pandemic levels in the late summer and early autumn. The widespread adoption of telecommuting and remote services is somewhat evident in the fact that traffic in the areas that are prone to the worst congestion has been smoother than before the pandemic,” says Aapo Anderson, CEO of Fintraffic Road.

The total road traffic volumes for each region have been collected using Fintraffic’s automatic road traffic measurement points (LAM points).

Rail freight continues to grow

Rail traffic is becoming ever-more important in goods transport. The number of freight trains has increased by almost 5 per cent year-on-year. The effects of the pandemic are still highly visible in passenger traffic, as the number of rail passengers is lower than usual. On both long-distance and commuter trains, volumes were about 4 per cent lower than in the corresponding period of 2020.

“Passenger traffic volumes have still not recovered to pre-pandemic levels. The volume of rail freight remains at a good level. Summer is the season for rail maintenance and construction. Plenty of track work was carried out around Finland this summer. Although we seek to schedule the work to minimise disruptions, it does unavoidably have an impact on traffic. Large-scale track work – such as in Kerava and Pukinmäki in Helsinki – has partly affected the punctuality of commuter traffic,” says Sanna Järvenpää, Operative Director, Fintraffic Railway.

Smooth sailing for maritime transport

Maritime transport is of great importance to Finland, as the majority of our foreign trade is conducted by sea. No major changes have occurred in cargo traffic as a result of the pandemic. In fact, smooth transport has ensured Finland’s security of supply during exceptional circumstances. For example, in August, international maritime transport amounted to a total of 7.7 million tonnes, a year-on-year increase of 3 per cent.

On the other hand, the pandemic has had a clear impact on passenger transport. For instance, the number of passengers in August was only 35 per cent of the figure for the corresponding period of 2019.

Use of traffic data is on the rise

Use of the traffic data produced by Fintraffic has grown rapidly in 2021. More than a billion interface calls were made to Fintraffic’s open data service in the third quarter. This figure has grown significantly – by more than 50 per cent – compared to the corresponding period of the previous year.

Use of Fintraffic’s traffic situation service has also increased. The number of page views on the traffic situation service doubled in July-September compared to the corresponding period of the previous year.