"It is quite easy to hide behind numbers and words and forget about the real world behind them."
With a total population of roughly 5.5 million, Finland's rail network has struggled to cope with demand over the years. Around three quarters of the services operated by VR Track run solely on a commercial basis, which gives them the flexibility to make changes to the timetable if they need to. Whilst some people believe that Finland is not very well suited for railways because of its low population density, VR Track are determined to provide a relibable and efficient service for its passengers. This week, our reporter Sarah Wright, spoke to Toni Hytönen, Head of Risk Management Group at the company to find out why he enjoys working in the industry and his future predictions for the next ten years.
Sarah Wright (SW): How did you get into the rail industry?
Toni Hytönen (TH): It is not uncommon that a person working in rail has a relative or two in the same industry. In my case, I’m the first one in the rail industry. After finishing my thesis on hazard identification method for underground drilling machines I almost ended up continuing my work there. Due to a recruitment ban I had to start looking elsewhere. At the same time VR Track Oy ( VRtrack ), which is part of VR Group, were looking for a safety specialist and after few months I started working here in June 2012.
SW: What do like most about your job?
TH: Today I work as the head of risk management group in VR Track Oy and I like my job as it has many aspects. On one hand, I manage a group of safety specialists and on the other, I am a safety specialist for the railway system. I have almost five years of intense work experience behind me, but every day I learn something new about the railway system. I have the pleasure to work with some of the greatest experts in this field so there is never a dull moment!
SW: What’s the biggest challenge in your role?
TH: My role faces many different challenges. As the head of risk management group I’m responsible for other people and their wellbeing at work. This is something I take as a challenge and responsibility every day. I believe that if you’re feeling well at work you do your job better.
As a safety specialist I also face many personal challenges. One of the biggest is to be confident in my ability to make informed choices for risk analysis. These decisions can a have direct impact on railway safety so the responsibility is very real. It is quite easy to hide behind numbers and words and forget about the real world behind them.
TH: When I started, I learned that a quarter in the railway system is 25 years. But now I have already witnessed that many aspects have started to change. Of course some structures are hard and slow to change but there is a great pace of innovation. Also, I think that mobile solutions have not seen their best in the railways and we can expect them to improve safety and information. I predict that we will see more automated trains in ten years' time - you would think that it would be easier than automated cars we are already seeing today... After all, railway is quite limited and well defined environment.
SW: What’s your favourite rail journey?
TH: My favorite rail journey happened quite recently, in the last fall to be precise. We took a night train from Tampere to Rovaniemi where we spent the week in Lapland. I was very excited as it was my first night train experience!
Last week's 5 minutes with... Anne Sjögren Schmidt, Traffic Information Manager for MTR Stockholm Metro.
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