Finland closes all border crossings to Russia but one to be used for rail
The Finnish government has decided to shut down all its eastern border crossings adjacent to Russia. The decision’s implementation starts today, Wednesday, 29 November. Only one gateway will be left open between the two countries: the Vainikkala border crossing, which will accommodate the remaining cargo traffic between Finland and Russia.
The decision follows an escalation on the two countries’ shared border resulting from an increased influx of migrants from Russia to Finland, which, according to the Finnish government, is orchestrated by the Kremlin to destabilise its neighbouring country.
Finland has already been applying border closures with Russia since last week. There was only one border crossing left open in the country’s Northeast, at Raja-Joosepi. However, this is also closed now, with Vainikkala, in the Southeast, remaining the sole communication channel between the two countries and strictly for cargo movements.
Marginal rail volumes
The fact that only one rail freight border crossing between the two countries will remain open could be considered a significant disruption a couple of years or some months ago. Nevertheless, this is not the case currently. Since late 2022, Finland has made clear its intentions to gradually phase out rail freight traffic with Russia following the war in Ukraine and subsequent sanctions on Russia.
The Nordic country started implementing this strategy in early 2023, with its transport sector experiencing a substantial blow from the dropping volumes. Currently, rail traffic between Finland and Russia appears to be relying on the transport of non-sanctioned products which do not constitute a significant volume.
VR Transpoint, the freight division of state-owned VR Group, has been adjusting its business strategy according to these shifts. The company cut down all its eastbound services and is now attempting to substitute international volumes with domestic business and links to mainland Europe.
Part of its plans include launching more intermodal and combined transport services to attract more cargo on rail and tackle the downward trajectory of volumes. To do that, VR Transpoint is considering solutions similar to the ones implemented by its Baltic neighbours. “”Combined transport is one solution for increasing the share of rail transport in Finland. Our vision is to create a large intermodal network between several cities and, in the longer term, to find solutions by which Finnish products could reach central Europe by train,” commented the company’s director, Eljas Koistinen.