"Our overall objective is to influence and communicate with our customers in order to provide them with the most effective services."
VR Track is a company which is owned by VR Group who operate Finland's rail tracks. Finland has an extensive railway network; with over 5,900 km of tracks, passengers can navigate themselves through all major cities by train as well as enjoying the country's impressive lakeland region. In this week's interview, our reporter Sarah Wright spoke to Heidi Kymäläinen, Head of Safety, Quality and Environment at VR Track about the region's rail infrastructure. Heidi shares her experiences of the rail industry and predicts what we can expect from Finnish railways over the next ten years.
Sarah Wright (SW): How did you get into the rail industry?
Heidi Kymäläinen (HK): I started as a Master’s Thesis worker at VR Track Oy in Finland, which was also my introduction to the railway industry. Soon after starting I noticed that the more I learnt about railways, the more interesting it became, especially as it is an industry which features so many different areas. My role focuses on the safety, quality, environmental and risk management of the trains, but in order to succeed in these areas you need to have sufficient knowledge of the railway system and how it works.
SW: What do like most about your job?
HK: The railway industry is continuously changing which makes every day different and the work challenging in a good way. It is very interesting to be part of developing company operations as well as being part of developing the industry. During the last decade railway industry has developed quite a bit and I don’t think it is going to slow down. In fact, the pace will get even faster when it comes to development and automatization. From risk management point of view, the constant change means that new risks emerge constantly. Risk management is more important than before and there are a lot of possibilities for developing operations. Safety activities and safety levels have developed immensely in last ten or so years, and trains are also more eco-friendly nowadays.
SW: What’s the biggest challenge in your role?
HK: My job consists of many different facets which are all inter-connected. At times, it is challenging to keep up with all the changes in every area as well as putting them into practice. You need to have a wide knowledge about the industry in order to ensure that operations are working efficiently as well as being more environmentally friendly. In all the areas of my work, passenger behaviour and human factors are essential. It is not enough to make machines and systems work in the right way, our overall objective is to influence and communicate with our customers in order to provide them with the most effective services.
SW: What will be some of the biggest differences between rail now and in 10 years’ time?
HK: I predict that in ten years’ time, the railway industry will develop even more drastically when it comes to automisation, standard operating practice and regulatory matters. I also believe that safety will become more important. In the end, it is better to see how the industry develops and try to keep up – or even better, to stay ahead of it.
SW: What’s your favourite rail journey?
HL: My favourite rail journey, so far, has been travelling through the Swiss Alps on the Glacier Express. Picturesque mountain views and natural scenery provide the most idyllic views. The Glacier Express offers a panoramic view of the Alps, and passes several gorges and tunnels which pierce through the mountains. The train also stops at stations so that you have time to walk around as well as engage with the local culture. I could never get bored of the breathtaking scenery and it always leaves me wondering how the train manages to climb up such steep gradients!
5 minutes with… You? Each Friday the team here at SmartRail World bring a 5 minutes with... interview. This fun, fast-paced feature will help you get to know more about personalities across the industry, their ideas and experiences and of course their own favourite rail journey! Want to take part? Email: firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more.
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