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Helsinki Metro not subject to any external oversight

Helsinki Metro not subject to any external oversight

Metro traffic in Helsinki and especially safety requirements relating to it and oversight of compliance with them should be statutorily regulated on the level of an Act. This view was taken by Parliamentary Ombudsman Petri Jääskeläinen in one of his recent decisions.

"The greater the safety-related interest associated with an activity, the greater is also the public interest relating to regulation and oversight," he says.

The safety interest relating to the Metro must, in the Ombudsman?s assessment, be considered exceptionally great, because nearly 58 million passengers use the service each year.  This total will increase considerably when the new western line is completed.

Bicycles statutorily regulated, but not the Metro

Metro operations and traffic are not currently subject to any regulation on the level of an Act, but are instead organised within the framework of municipal self-government. Helsinki City Transport (HKL) itself determines the Metro's standard of safety and also itself oversees it and inspects its own rolling stock and equipment.

The Ombudsman finds it astonishing that the Metro is the only form of transport for which traffic safety factors and oversight of them are not regulated by any Act. In this respect Metro traffic differs from all other transport modes.

"For example, the Road Traffic Act contains provisions stipulating the competence requirements that cable ferry operators must meet and on inspections of these ferries, whilst the Vehicle Act regulates the structure and equipment of bicycles. By contrast, the Metro ? which carries millions of people each year ? is something that is not known in an Act." 

City guidelines do not apply to outside parties

The safety of Metro traffic is subject to regulations approved by the Board of HKL. These regulations apply to such matters as responsibility for safety and competence requirements. They are also the basis on which licences to drive a Metro train as well as to control and monitor traffic are issued. The equipment in Metro trains and inspections of them are also provided for in the regulations.

"All of this regulation is in the form of internal City guidelines, the legal status of which can be equated with orders given on the basis of an employer?s right to direct. It can not be used to determine the rights or obligations of outsiders," Ombudsman Jääskeläinen points out.

Legislation on railways does not apply to the Metro

The Metro is not subject to legislation on railways. It is also outside the scope of oversight and other powers of the Ministry of Transport and Communications and the Finnish Transport Safety Agency, Trafi. Nor is there any other external oversight of Metro traffic.

Metro traffic systems do not fall within the scope of legislation for the railways sector in European Union law. In the view of the Ombudsman, however, this does not mean that legislation on these systems could or should not be enacted on the national level.

Metro operations are regulated on the level of Acts in the other Nordic countries and Germany and oversight of the safety of metro traffic is the responsibility of a separate official body.

Helsinki can not oversee the Metro in Espoo

The Ministry of Transport and Communications has reported in a statement it gave to the Ombudsman that it can, in collaboration with Trafi and HKL, examine whether technical and safety regulations applicable to metro and tram systems can be issued as Trafi regulations. This would presuppose legislative measures.

According to the Ministry, something that can be examined at the same time is how oversight of the Metro's operations should be arranged when it is extended to Espoo.

When it was adopting a new set of metro traffic regulations in March, the Board of HKL considered it important that HKL participates in development and preparatory work in the Ministry of Transport and Communications to formulate guidelines and legislation concerning the Metro.

Two complaints about the matter

The Ombudsman investigated the matter on the basis of complaints. The union JHL, which represents tramway and Metro employees, expressed its dissatisfaction with the lack of regulation on the level of an Act of Metro traffic and its safety, something that affects also the legal security of the personnel responsible for safety-related tasks in the Metro.

The other complaint contained criticism of safety arrangements in Metro traffic and investigation of accidents that had happened in the Metro.

Recommendation to Ministry

The Ombudsman has recommended to the Ministry of Transport and Communications that it take measures to bring Metro services and especially related safety requirements and oversight of them within the scope of regulation on the level of an Act. He has asked the Ministry to inform him, by 31.12.2013, of the measures it has taken.

Additional info will be provided by Principal legal Adviser Pasi Pölönen, tel. +358 (0)9 432 3345.