1. What is Kouvola RRT?

The Kouvola RRT (rail and road terminal) project is among the measures aimed at developing the logistics sector and terminal activities in Kouvola.

Kouvola RRT is a modern and versatile intermodal terminal area that serves the ever growing needs of both domestic and international container transport. The planning phase was completed in January 2019, and the project is now in the implementation phase.

The development of the Kouvola RRT is one of the strategic priorities of the City of Kouvola aimed at centralising intermodal transportation while making the related activities more efficient.

2. Where will Kouvola RRT be located?

Kouvola RRT will be located in the Tehola and Kullasvaara areas in Kouvola. The intermodal terminal that is constructed in the first phase of the project is located in Kullasvaara, along the Kouvola–Joensuu track, east of national route 15 and south of national route 6.

The current logistics centre in Kouvola, where container trains to and from China stop for loading and unloading, is in the Tehola area that will form a part of the Kouvola RRT area.

3. What will be built in the RRT area?

According to the general plan that was drafted for the development of the area, an intermodal terminal area will be built in the first phase of the project. In the following phases, logistics and business areas will be built to serve the needs of industrial operators.

The new intermodal terminal area for long trains (phase 1) will make it possible to handle trains up to 1.1 km long and enable the use of new and innovative cargo-handling methods through robotics and digitalisation. Two new loading tracks will be built in the terminal area.

The construction and planning area for the RRT covers a total area of 170 hectares. The intermodal terminal area is 48 hectares.

4. Why does the current logistics area not meet the needs of container train traffic?

Future logistics operators in the Kouvola RRT area must be guaranteed enough space and the possibility to expand their operations. The current Tehola logistics area does not have enough space for plots, and the need for space is significant.

The new intermodal terminal will make it possible to load trains that are more than a kilometre long on one track as one unit. This will save time and costs in container train traffic. As the container train traffic increases, operations in the Kouvola logistics area must be prepared to handle dozens of trains a month.

The current Tehola logistics area will be incorporated in the new terminal area. The existing project hall will serve the needs of project deliveries of trains to and from China that require space and special expertise.

5. What is the construction schedule?

The Kouvola RRT rail and road terminal project is divided into phases, and construction will take place between 2019 and 2023. The phase 1 construction works began in the beginning of 2019 and they are expected to be completed by the end of 2022.

At the time of writing, Kouvola City Council has approved the construction of Kouvola RRT, and the city has committed to ringfencing the necessary funds for the project.

6. How much does the RRT project cost and who will pay for it?

The cost of the first phase of the project, i.e., the intermodal terminal area, is about EUR 39.8 million. The City of Kouvola will contribute EUR 33.9 million, and the State of Finland EUR 5.9 million. The costs consist of the construction of the connections between the intermodal terminal and main road network, the loading platforms, the intermodal terminal area, including its municipal engineering works, and project management.

The City of Kouvola, the Finnish Transport Infrastructure Agency and the Finnish Ministry of Transport and Communications have applied to the EU for CEF funding of EUR 7.7 million for investment in the project. Decisions on EU funding were made in early 2019. The CEF funding would account for about 20% of the total cost of the first phase.

The EU has already granted the City of Kouvola CEF funding of about EUR 1.7 million for 2016–2018 for the planning and development of the project. The total planning budget was EUR 3.4 million. The CEF funding accounted for 50% of the budget, and the City of Kouvola covered the remaining 50%.

7. Why is the logistics area being built in Kouvola?

Kouvola has proven an important hub for both national goods transportation and international rail traffic. At its core there is a network of companies that has grown into a significant cluster of warehousing, terminal, forwarding and value-adding services. Moreover, Kouvola is the only rail and road terminal location in Finland in the international core traffic network TEN-T (Trans European Network – Transport).

Its favourable location means Kouvola forms a link between the Nordic Countries and Asia. The container train connection between Kouvola and China is the shortest route between the EU and China, both in terms of distance and travel time, which is just two weeks.

8. How many jobs will the RRT project create?

The weekly container train connection between Kouvola and China will make it possible to handle 10,000 TEU containers a year. At this transport volume, the direct job creation effect is about 3.5 persons. The annual growth of container transport volumes by 250,000 TEU containers will require about 20 to 25 employees. The total direct job creation effect in the area is estimated to grow two to five-fold, depending on future operations in the new area.

Kouvola RRT will also create jobs indirectly. More jobs will be created in the logistics area, as the loading and unloading of containers will be centred in Kouvola as much as possible. In addition, the terminal area will create new opportunities for service industries, including maintenance, security, spare part and restaurant services. The new logistics areas and the areas intended for light industry and commercial activities are expected to create the conditions for about 1,500 jobs.

*TEU (twenty-foot equivalent unit, a regular container) is a basic unit used in container transport that equals a 20-foot or six-metre container.

The number of containers transported by rail between China and Europe is estimated to increase from the current 350,000 containers (TEU) to as many as a million. The Chinese One Belt, One Road (OBOR) investment programme aims at increasing trade between Asia and Europe in particular.

9. Why is the container train connection so important for rail transport in Northern Europe?

The new train connection will improve the cost-effectiveness and competitive edge of rail traffic between China and Europe, which continuously faces container shortages. The connection via Kouvola will also be about 2,000 km shorter than the usual route. The route only involves one time-consuming reloading of cargo, as Finnish and Russian railways are of the same gauge.

The new eastern transport corridor will generate new business opportunities for production sectors for which air freight has been too expensive and marine transport too slow until now. It will make freight connections from Europe and the Nordic Countries to China, Japan, Australia and South Korea faster. Thanks to the short transport time, it will enable the import and export of refrigerated and seasonal products as well.

Both the EU and China are also investing heavily in tackling climate change. The shift to rail transportation plays a key role in reducing the carbon footprint of container and goods transport.

10. How will future competence and skills be ensured?

Kouvola is a traditional railway junction and the hub of training and education in the railway sector in Finland. It is the site of vocational training in the railway sector in the form of Kouvolan Rautatie- ja Aikuiskoulutus Oy (Kouvola railway and adult education centre, KRAO) and Liikenneviraston Ratatekninen oppimiskeskus (FTA education centre for rail technology, ROK) which ensures that skilled employees will be available for the demanding tasks in the railway sector in the future.

The Kouvola unit of the Lappeenranta University of Technology (LUT) hosts university-level research and development activities in the railway sector as well as a professorship in railway logistics.

In addition, the head of research in railway logistics in the South-Eastern Finland University of Applied Sciences (XAMK) campus in Kouvola collaborates with the City of Kouvola, Kouvola Innovation Oy and the Finnish Transport Infrastructure Agency, among others, in the development of business and expertise in railway sector.

11. What administrative decisions is the project based on?

In December 2013, the European Commission and the Council passed Regulation (EU) No 1315/2013 on Union guidelines for the development of the trans-European transport network. According to the regulation, member states must take appropriate measures for the development of the core network for compliance with the provisions of the regulation by the end of 2030.

In December 2013, the European Commission and the Council passed Regulation (EU) No 1315/2013 on Union guidelines for the development of the trans-European transport network. According to the regulation, member states must take appropriate measures for the development of the core network for compliance with the provisions of the regulation by the end of 2030.

In the regulation, the Kouvola RRT rail and road terminal has been identified as the only RRT in Finland in the core network. The City of Kouvola has proposed to the Ministry of Transport and Communications of Finland that the state should promote rail traffic by contributing to the realisation and funding of the railway infrastructure necessary for the only rail and road terminal in Finland.

The service level of the terminal will be upgraded to meet the objectives of the Scandinavian-Mediterranean Corridor of the European Union. The intermodal terminal will enable block train transportations using trains as long as 1,100 metres, particularly to and from China and Russia.

The grant agreement between the City of Kouvola and the Innovation and Networks Executive Agency of the European Commission (INEA) on the planning of the project was signed in October 2016.

The development of the Kouvola RRT area follows the requirements determined in approved regional and master plans. The development of the project is included in the essential measures to be implemented or started in 2016–2020, as defined in the Kymenlaakso regional traffic strategy 2035 (Kymenlaakson liikennestrategia 2035) Memorandum of Understanding from 2015.

12. How did the project begin in practice?

The container train connection has been planned for a long time, since 2012. The first memoranda of understanding were signed in the winter 2016 with the cities of Kaluga (Russia), Khorgos (Kazakhstan), and Xi’an (China). The container train connection between Kouvola and Xi’an was opened on 10 November 2017, and the first train from China arrived in Kouvola on 12 December 2017.

13. What is Railgate Finland, Kouvola – China Express?

Railgate Finland, Kouvola – China Express is a marketing project by Kouvola Innovation Oy, a development company owned by the City of Kouvola, for the rail link, with a special emphasis on creating a competitive rail connection between the whole of Northern Europe and Asia.

In addition to the development of the container train connection between Kouvola and Xi’an in China, Railgate Finland also participates in the development and marketing activities of the Kouvola RRT area and logistics operations.

14. A container train connection from Kouvola to China – where is the route and how fast is it?

There has been a significant increase in rail freight transport volumes in the past few years, and this growth is expected to continue in the future. The railway routes in Belarus have almost reached their capacity, which will boost the increase in the traffic volumes via Kouvola.

The container train connection between Finland and Xi’an in China runs from Kouvola to St Petersburg and Moscow in Russia, then to Khorgos in Kazakhstan and further to Xi’an in China. The train takes about two weeks to complete the journey. The train leaves from both Kouvola and Xi’an about every two weeks.

15. How will the Kouvola RRT be administered?

The plan is to establish an administrative or terminal company to administer the Kouvola RRT. It could be in neutral public ownership or shared ownership with a rail or terminal operator.

The tasks of an administrative company include the development, marketing and sales of the intermodal route according to the collaborative model to be agreed upon, development of infrastructure, administration and maintenance, the organisation of freight handling services and the development of safety and environmental solutions.

16. What parties are involved in developing the project?

The Kouvola RRT project is implemented as a joint venture between the City of Kouvola and the State of Finland. The RRT area will be connected to the national railway network via two loading platforms. The Finnish Transport Infrastructure Agency controls the railway infrastructure, and it will also own the loading tracks to be constructed as a part of the project. The city is responsible for the implementation and maintenance of the terminal area, for leasing the areas and for construction planning. The city and the Finnish Transport Infrastructure Agency collaborate in the management of the planning works.

Kouvola Innovation Oy promotes the marketing of the Kouvola–China route and the logistics areas in collaboration with the City of Xi’an and the International Trade and Logistics Park, a development company owned by the city of Xi’an. In addition, various local, regional, Finnish and Nordic operators representing both the public and private sector are involved in the project.

17. What companies will operate the RRT?

In Finland, the operator is Kouvola Cargo Handling Oy in collaboration with UnyTrade Oy. Cargo Handling is in charge of operative activities in Kouvola.

The operator in Kazakhstan is the railway company KTZ Express, and in China, Xi’an International Port Multimodal Transportation.

18. How is the circular economy visible in the project?

In the Kouvola RRT project, the new terminal area is built using environmentally friendly methods while ensuring the efficient use of materials. The project aims to reuse materials and resources systematically. Measures have been taken to use such materials as concrete chippings and industrial by-products and low-quality soil from the project. The materials will be converted into resources that benefit the whole project.

Updated 27.6.2019