Volcano forces early end to Swedish rail monopoly

Travel disruption caused by the volcanic eruption in southern Iceland has prompted the Swedish government to announce that it will lift the monopoly on key routes run by national rail operator SJ.

Volcano forces early end to Swedish rail monopoly

The move is intended to boost capacity by encouraging more rail operators to ply the routes which were due to opened up to market competition in the autumn.

“It is important that all means of transport are optimised and we have therefore taken the decision to allow more rail operators to use the network. The decision is valid from today (Thursday),” said infrastructure minister Åsa Torstensson in a government statement.

The Swedish government had announced in March last year it would end the state railway company’s monopoly on passenger traffic on October 1, 2010.

“The decision covers the time from now until the new law is passed in the autumn. The two decisions are separate from each other but in practice this is a permanent measure as it will cover the entire interim period,” said Henrik Hansson, a spokesperson for the infrastructure minister told The Local on Thursday.

Torstensson also referred to an ongoing “close dialogue” between the government and the aviation sector to find measures with which to offer support. According to the minister, the government is active in the EU process to develop guidelines for how member states can establish support mechanisms.

The government is prepared to review charges levied on airlines once traffic has returned to regular levels.

SJ has been unable to meet the extra demand caused by the flight chaos as much of its rolling stock has been undergoing service in April as a result of damage caused by the heavy snow falls during the winter.

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Trains stopped between Stockholm and Gothenburg

Trains between Stockholm and Gothenburg have been stopped and between Stockholm and Malmö severely disrupted due to a fire and several electrical faults.

Trains stopped between Stockholm and Gothenburg

“We have problems with all rail traffic south of Norrland,” Peter Jonsson, from the Swedish Transport Administration, told the country’s TT newswire. “The heat has of course had an impact, particularly when it concerns the fire, but we’re not otherwise speculating on the cause.” 

According to the agency, the issues are the result of four separate incidents, a fire south of Hallsberg, an overhead power contact line, which has snapped, and two electrical faults. 

Peter Krameus, a spokesperson for Sweden’s state-owned rail company SJ, said that all trains were being sent back to the stations from which they most recently departed until the faults could be corrected. 

While trains between Stockholm and Gothenburg have been stopped completely, trains between Stockholm and Malmö have been affected by two problems with overhead lines. Trains between Mjölby and Nässjö and Eslöv and Stehag are travelling onto on one of the two lines now. 

“That doesn’t mean that all traffic has stopped, but it’s going to mean cancelled trains and delayed departures,” Jonsson said. 

So far, 50 of SJ’s train departures have been cancelled as a result of the faults.