Bad vibes from the new tram

Tram test ride in front of the Viikki library

Our showers were banned from use due to the new tram line running in front of my workplace, the Helsinki University Viikki campus. During the trial runs of the tram, I noticed cracks in the changing room's wall and the showers. I reported these cracks sometime in February to our janitors. Apparently, the structural damage includes the wastewater pipes, and that's why we can't have showers anymore. That is a bummer, especially in the summer. To my understanding, the condition of the university buildings had been documented before the construction of the tram line started. Now the investigation is underway to determine whether the additional damage was caused by the construction or the trial runs (and who has to pay for the damage repair).

Since I either cycle or run to work, I need to take a shower every morning. My morning routine has become more difficult since the replacement showers have no place where I can hang my wet clothes and towel for drying. While this causes some inconvenience, there will be more serious consequences if there is a causal connection to the tram operation: The university has expensive research equipment, which is sensitive to vibrations.

It is incomprehensible how the top university administration could have agreed with the city of Helsinki to run the tram line directly in front of the University building. In fact, the tram now makes a detour to go along Viikinkaari. The more natural and shorter route would have been about 200 meters South of the current track (along Viikintie), avoiding all this trouble. In order to build the tracks directly in front of Biocenter 1 and 2, millions of additional Euros were wasted on vibration-dampening elements to protect our high-end equipment from vibrations. And perhaps all that money was wasted if it should appear that the efforts were insufficient.

The more serious question is how the university administration was able to proceed without consulting with the actual stakeholders, i.e., the people who are doing the research (me and my colleagues). It becomes even more incomprehensible when considering that the (vice)rector of the university was from our campus and therefore should have known the situation. Or was he already so much detached from actual research and his research-performing colleagues that he did not realize that there was an issue? Why was there a need to take this risk? I still hope that there won't be any need to relocate any of the vibration-sensitive equipment to locations further away from the tram line. This would be expensive and the funding situation of Finnish universities is already now worse than in any other Scandinavian or central European country. And it's "our own fault" since we (or our top leaders) agreed to it...