Sweden invests least in railway upkeep: report

Sweden puts far less money into railroad maintenance than other EU countries, shows a report that union Seko will be presenting next week, wrote newspaper Göteborgs-Posten (GP).

Sweden invests least in railway upkeep: report

“This is worse than I thought,” said Kristoffer Arvidsson, investigator at Seko, to GP.

“I knew we were bad at railroad maintenance in Sweden, but that we’re so extremely bad came as a surprise.”

Railroad operations and maintenance receive far below the EU average in Sweden, in relation to the gross national product (GNP). Sweden also invests less than any other EU country in reinvestments.

“Politicians have prioritized big ostentatious projects instead of the crucial maintenance. Gear changes won’t get you any votes,” commented Arvidsson to GP.

Change may be on the horizon, according to Gunnar Malm, head of the Swedish Transport Administration (Trafikverket).

“Politicians are finally starting to understand what’s needed. This spring we received 800 million kronor ($120 million) extra to prepare for winter, and now we’re getting another 3.6 billion for increased railroad maintenance and reinvestments,” he said to GP.

However, Malm warns that it will take between 7 and 10 years to reach the standard necessary to get trains to run on time.

Seko’s report also shows that 67 percent of Swedes no longer trust trains to run on time.

“Swedish railroads are heavily used and maintenance has been disregarded for decades. That leads to major disruptions,” said Gunnar Malm.

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Train staff threaten wildcat strike in Skåne on Monday

Trains could be disrupted across Skåne in southern Sweden on Monday after the SEKO transport union threatened a wildcat strike over an attempt to remove a troublesome union official.

Train staff threaten wildcat strike in Skåne on Monday
Arriva, which operates the Pågatåg train network, faces a strike. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT
The union has set up a strike committee after Arriva, the Deutsche Bahn subsidiary which runs the Pågatågen regional trains, offered Ola Brunnström, the union's health and safety official, two years of salary if he took voluntary redundancy.  
“For us, what was the straw on the camel's back was the attack on the right to self-organisation, that what they are doing is actually breaking the law,” a member of the new committee told the Sydsvenskan newspaper. 
“Ola Brunnström is a chief health and safety official and he should be protected under the Trade Union Representatives Act.” 
Brunnström has denied the offer, but Arriva wants to push ahead nonetheless and is set to meet him, together with Seko representatives on Monday. 
According to Seko, the meeting between Brunnström and Arriva will centre on an  email he wrote to other Seko-affiliated staff on October 9th, when he wrote: “We are not afraid of the bosses, they should be afraid of us.” 
Jonas Pettersson, Seko's head of planning and communication, told Sydsvenskan that Arriva had been trying to silence a high profile union official with a long hisotry of pushing for better safety for the company's employees. 
Arriva would only tell Sydsvenskan that they had had a discussion with one of their employees. 
Brunnström has in recent months been a vocal participant in a struggle with the company over equipment to protect staff from being infected with coronavirus, over loo breaks, and also over Arriva's moves to unilaterally reduce employees hours and salary. 
Pettersson said Seko would do everything in its power to prevent Brunnström losing his job, but said the union could not support a wildcat strike and encouraged its members not to take part in it.