The study by Sweden’s Transport Administration (Trafikverket) looked at why traffic was delayed, what the delays cost and asked what could be done to reduce the cost to business and society of future harsh winters.
The snowy and cold winter of 2009 and 2010 had serious consequences for the Rail Administration (Bankverket), train operators and society in particular. The extreme cold, combined with heavy snowfall, resulted in very poor conditions for rail traffic.
“The weather was unusual, but not an isolated phenomenon,” Thomas Andersson, press secretary for Trafikverket, said in a statement.
The total number of hours trains were delayed this winter was 83,000, of which slightly more than two-thirds affected freight traffic and the remainder affected passenger services. These delays were twice as many as in a normal winter.
If measures corresponding to an initial investment of 410 million to 450 million kronor were implemented, half of the delays would be avoided, the report said.
Overall, about half of the rail delays in Sweden are said to be caused by factors that may affect Trafikverket and the other half fall under the control train operators. A strict line between causal factors and responsibility is difficult to draw as many causes are linked.
“It is clear that cooperation between Trafikverket, contractors and train operators is needed to limit the problems caused both by winter conditions and other causes of delays,” said Andersson.
According to Trafikverket, deficiencies in infrastructure, interfacing with contractors, internal management and processes and information to passengers, operators and society contributed to the situation.
The largest positive net effect would come in the form of alternative train timetables and plans for adapting operations at reduced capacity because of disruptions, as well as improved operational management nationwide.
Although technology has the potential to solve some of the problems, because of the scope of the problems and the geographical spread, the cost of implementing technology solutions is often too high for them to be justified from an economic perspective.
“One cannot assume that the past winter’s weather was an isolated event and it is important that Trafikverket take the necessary steps to further reduce the effects of a severe winter,” said Andersson.
“Since Trafikverket could not implement these measures in a vacuum, it is also important that operators, contractors and other parties involved participate and contribute as needed.”
Trafikverket pledged to continue to do everything within reason to maintain rail infrastructure during bad weather, then deal with reduced capacity during interruptions in the most optimal way possible and simultaneously inform the public and third parties as quickly and accurately as possible on how the disruption could not be avoided.