Lifecycle management of the transport network

New investments and maintenance costs should be adapted to each other in the lifecycle management of the transport network. The volume of investments should be at a level that makes it possible to maintain an appropriate service capacity in the entire transport network even in the future.

The transport network consists of the road network, rail network and waterways. They have been constructed over a long period of time and require continuous maintenance and repair. The transport network enables people to move and also most of the economic activities in Finland.

With a balance sheet value of about EUR 20 billion, the transport network is central government’s most significant fixed asset item. In recent years, central government has used about EUR 1.5–2 billion for the development and maintenance of the network. The condition of the transport network has given rise to concerns, and its repair backlog has grown in the 2010s. The NAOF audited the effectiveness of the transport network repair operations as part of the “Asset lifecycle management” audit theme.

It is not appropriate to consider transport network repairs as separate operations. The maintenance of the existing network and new investments are closely linked, and it is important to consider them simultaneously.  New investments should be made only to the extent that makes it possible to maintain the desired transport network in the long term.

The growth of the transport network repair backlog shows that the focus has been on investments. In 2016–2019, the Government strived to solve the repair backlog problem by additional appropriations provided within a repair backlog programme. However, the lifecycle management of the transport network would require a more permanent solution than short-term programme-based funding. The new 12-year transport system plan may increase the long-term perspective.

Financial reference data is available on investments but not on repair operations. Cost-benefit analyses are always made on new investment projects to shed light on the profitability of the investments and to give an opportunity to compare different projects. Similar information is not available on repair projects or on their cost-effectiveness compared with each other, and they cannot be compared with investment projects. This information would make it possible to compare different projects.

The responsibility for managing the transport networks is concentrated in the Finnish Transport Infrastructure Agency (FTIA). The FTIA is responsible for the entire rail network and waterways, whereas the maintenance and repair of the road network fall within the responsibility of the regional Centres for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment (ELY Centres). However, all ELY Centres are not responsible for the road network in their own region. Only nine ELY Centres have a transport function, and they are responsible for the road maintenance of the other ELY Centres as well. This does not support the needs for the development and maintenance of the transport network. It would therefore be appropriate to consider concentrating even these operations in the FTIA.