Getting there together – 150 years of VR
VR is celebrating its 150th anniversary in 2012. The year will celebrate the history of Finnish railways and the importance of railway services as an ecofriendly, versatile form of transport. The actual date of the anniversary is 17 March, which is when scheduled railway services began between Helsinki and Hämeenlinna in 1862.
“We have many good reasons for celebrating our anniversary year. VR has played and still plays an important role in Finnish society,” explains President and CEO Mikael Aro. VR is celebrating with its customers “During the anniversary year VR can look back with pride at its long, splendid history, during which the railways have been a key factor in the development of Finnish society. At the same time our eyes are focused firmly on the future, for the railways will still be needed to transport passengers and freight for at least the next 150 years,” states Mr Aro.
For VR this will be a working celebration, shared with its passengers. During the year customers will be able to take advantage of various benefits and special offers and participate in events at railway stations. “The anniversary year gives us an opportunity for positive interaction with customers and partners. There are many railway enthusiasts and rail transport fans in Finland who can hardly wait for the anniversary year to begin,” says Mr Aro.
First stop – the history The first event in the anniversary year is the publication in January of a book telling the history of VR. The history of the railways is also the theme for an exhibition of photographs at Helsinki Central Station. A special postage stamp is also being printed in honour of VR’s anniversary. One of the high points of the year will be when the heritage train Valtteri is revealed to the public early in the year. The train has wooden-structured coaches that have been completely restored and a Dr13 diesel locomotive. Thanks to the automatic train protection equipment installed on the locomotive, the train can operate on all sections of railway line. The public will be able to admire the train at events to be held in the summer at different stations around Finland.
VR will be visible on various media Even before the actual anniversary year gets underway, on 16 December, VR is opening its own anniversary website on the Internet. This will contain the pick of railway stories, from the past and the present day. New contents will be created for the site throughout the year. VR will be on television in March, when a documentary film about the history of the railways will be shown. “It will be interesting to see how much attention is paid to the anniversary year, how much discussion it arouses and what form this takes,” says Mr Aro.
“This is now an outstanding opportunity to talk about the future of rail services and the direction in which we should be developing VR.” VR is thinking not only of its customers but also of its personnel during the anniversary year. New uniforms have been designed for railway personnel and separate events will be held for personnel. “I hope that customers and personnel will get into the mood for our celebration. VR and effective rail services are matters that are worth celebrating,” states Mr Aro with enthusiasm. 150 years of railway services “The railway is essential for every country that wishes to keep up with developments in civilisation,” stressed Finland’s national philosopher J. V. Snellman back in his day. The arrival of the new mode of transport changed the concepts of time and distance held by the inhabitants of this sparsely populated country.
By the time Finland gained its independence in 1917, Finnish State Railways had become a service institution that moulded the economy, social structure and culture of the country. During the years of independence the steam locomotives have been replaced first by diesel and then by electric locomotives. The number of passengers and volume of freight transported by rail have grown over the decades. Today, the VR Group is an eco-friendly, dynamic and versatile transport company, and is still an important part of Finnish society.