Soil and landscape
VR Group is committed to ensuring that its operations do not pollute the soil or the groundwater. The aim is that no major leaks contaminate the soil during the transport hazardous substances or when using chemicals.
The Group has a long history and it owns a large number of properties where soil contamination that occurred decades ago requires risk management. For many years, VR has been cleaning up soil contaminated in the past by rolling stock maintenance and refuelling.
In 2013 the Group spent EUR 1.0 million (EUR 0.7 million) on soil surveys and cleanup. Major property development projects at the sites of old workshops, depots and locomotive sheds account for most of the costs. In 2013, soil decontamination work was carried out in Helsinki, Hämeenlinna, Pori and Oulu as a part of construction projects.
The groundwater monitoring required by authorities is carried out at the Hyvinkää workshop, at the Helsinki depot in Ilmala, at the Kaipiainen rail welding workshop, at the Kokkola and Mikkeli locomotive sheds, at the Kouvola depot, at the site of the former Pasila workshop, at the Riihimäki depot and at the Turku depot.
Groundwater remediation is taking place at the Hyvinkää workshop and the Riihimäki depot. Oils are removed from the groundwater by pumping.
The examination of responsibilities concerning the polluted sediments at Pajuluoma, in Seinäjoki, is continuing. There have been a large number of operators in the area over the years and the pollution occurred decades ago. The pollution is partially a result of activities that occurred during the period when Finnish State Railways operated at the rail yard. VR Group has cleaned up the soil of the site in its possession and surveys show that contaminants are no longer discharged from the area into Pajuluoma.
The holding sidings used by diesel-powered rolling stock have been surveyed and guidelines for protecting them will be introduced in 2014. The oil dripping from the diesel locomotives onto the sidings is gradually blackening the surface of the crushed stone between the tracks. For many years, protective mats have been used to cover the cleaned tracks.
No major leaks occurred during the transport of hazardous substances in 2013.
In April, a number of wagons derailed at Vammala in the municipality of Sastamala, and as a result, approximately 5,000 kg of crude tall oil leaked into the environment. The soil was cleaned up. The substance in question was not classified as an ADR product.
Heritage biotopes for endangered species
VR Group and the Finnish Association for Nature Conservation have been cooperating in the management of heritage biotopes since 2008. The project 'Matkalla maisemaan - luonnollisesti' (Scenic travelling - naturally) lasted three years, and since its completion, the VR Group has supported management work in a total of five adopted projects in the years 2011–2013. The sites adopted by the VR Group included the meadow near the Haapamäki railway station, Kirjolanmäki in Salo, a trackside meadow near the Viinijärvi railway station in Liperi, the area around the churches in Keminmaa, and Vähäkangas in Ylivieska.
One of the five environmental promises of the VR Group ('Towards cleaner soil and a cleaner landscape') is also connected with heritage biotopes. The aim is to ensure that biodiversity and biotopes will also be protected in the future. A number of species have spread to tracksides and rail yards specifically because the conditions at these sites are suitable for them. Many of the trackside species, such as the moth Athetis Gluteosa, are endangered. The species has been found at the Tampere rail yard, and work is under way to determine how it can be protected in its area of occurrence.
Watch a video about the heritage biotope project (in Finnish):
Guidelines and clarification of responsibilities help to minimise the environmental risks arising from current operations.
Soil cleanup will continue as part of changes in land use and construction activities and on the basis of reviews and surveys. Most of the VR-owned areas are located in city and town centres. They are sought-after sites for office and housing construction. Changes in urban structures and the trend towards more compact cities will also increase the need for decontamination of the sites.