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Here’s how Sweden’s public transport tickets could be changing

Sweden's government has begun looking into a national ticketing system for public transport across the entire country.

Here's how Sweden's public transport tickets could be changing
A public bus pictured in the Hornstull neighbourhood of Stockholm. Photo: Claudio Bresciani/TT

The government has begun an investigation which involves looking into how a nationwide ticketing system would work.

“Travelling with public transport is good for the environment and we know that an increasing number of passengers want to be able to choose sustainable modes of transport,” said Infrastructure Minister Tomas Eneroth. “A national ticket system will make it easier to choose buses, trains and ferries.”

Today, it is possible to buy train and some bus tickets on the website of state railway operator SJ, including tickets for some routes not operated by the company.

But regional and local transport is a different story. Each of Sweden's 21 regions has its own transport operator, something which could make it hard for travellers to find the right information about their journey and to buy tickets.

READ ALSO: The words and phrases that will help you survive your commute in Sweden

The government has appointed a commissioner, Gerhard Wennerström, to look into how a nationwide ticketing system could be designed, introduced, managed, and financed.

This will include an analysis of the “needs and obstacles” linked to buying tickets for public transport, looking into how other countries have introduced nationwide ticket systems, as well as suggestions for which forms of transports should be included, and a suggested schedule for the introduction of a potential new system.

The effort to introduce this ticketing system was part of the so-called January deal made between the centre-left government and the Centre and Liberal parties, in which they agreed on 73 policy points covering climate, migration, and housing policy among other things.

Separately, the government in March announced a 50 million kronor (€4.7m) investment to push forward plans for new night trains to continental Europe. And SJ has said it also plans to improve options for international rail travel by adjusting its timetable to fit with cross-border departures.

READ ALSO: The Local's ultimate guide to exploring Sweden by train

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‘Demand we’ve never seen’: Why are trains so popular in Sweden right now?

There's high demand on train tickets in Sweden at the moment, especially on long-distance routes like the Malmö-Stockholm line. Why are they so busy, and when will it be easier to travel by train?

'Demand we've never seen': Why are trains so popular in Sweden right now?

“There are a lot of people who want to travel by train,” press communications officer Jonas Olsson from state-owned train company SJ told The Local.

“We saw that after restrictions opened up, there was a demand we’ve never seen before.”

Olsson said that the train company are not sure why demand has increased, but said it was “really great” that demand is so high.

“We’re not sure what the reason is,” he said.

“It could be an increase in interest after the pandemic, it could be the sustainablility aspect, we’ve not really got to the bottom of it.”

Swedes have for a number of years shown interest in more environmentally-friendly modes of transport, with the term flygskam or “flight shame”, a feeling of guilt over the environmental impacts of flying, first gaining popularity in 2018.

Flight chaos hitting Europe’s airports this summer has also had a possible positive effect on train bookings in Sweden this year, as more travellers choose to avoid the queues and travel by train.

Why don’t train companies just put more trains in service?

Unfortunately, it’s not that simple.

“It’s not that easy to just put more trains on the line,” Olsson said.

“Planning trains takes a long time. We have to apply for a permit from the Transport Agency, so we work on a year-long cycle.”

“We’ve also had a difficult summer with regard to our staff situation,” he said, referring to train driver shortages which have plagued the company in recent months.

“So, for a number of reasons, we haven’t been able to have as many trains running as we would like.”

Olsson does not believe that this high demand is going to drop any time soon, despite the fact that most Swedes are now back to work after their summer holidays.

“We think it’s probably going to be the opposite, that demand will keep increasing,” he said.

“So, I don’t think there will be more tickets in the future.”

SJ are taking measures to meet this high demand, he said, despite the company having to plan a year in advance.

“We’ve said we’re going to hire a thousand more staff this year, and that’s because we want more train drivers and more onboard staff so we can put more trains on our routes.”

How can I get hold of a train ticket if I want to travel?

Despite high demand, it’s not impossible to get hold of tickets, even on high-pressure routes like the Malmö to Stockholm line.

“There are still tickets available, if you plan a little bit in advance you can still get tickets,” Olsson said.

“So they’re not completely sold out all the time, but you should keep that in mind – if you’re travelling by train on this route, you should try and plan in advance if you want to get hold of the cheaper tickets.”

“Our ticket model is formed in a way that we have tickets released at short notice – last minute tickets,” Olsson explained.

“The closer you get to departure, the more expensive they get. You can travel today or tomorrow, but then you’ll be paying a lot more so close to departure.”

“There’s really high demand. It’s really great, truly.”

Is there high demand on other routes, or is it just affecting the Malmö-Stockholm line?

“Stockholm to Malmö is one of our major routes,” Olsson said, “so obviously there are a lot of people travelling there and a lot of demand there.”

“There’s more demand on Stockholm-Malmö than, for example, Stockholm-Gothenburg, but we’re seeing more people travelling across the whole network, on all our routes, really.”

Demand for international train travel has also gone up, again possibly as a result of flight cancellations and queues at Europe’s airports.

“We opened a new route in autumn which goes from Stockholm to Hamburg, that also goes through Malmö, it’s a night train going through Europe,” Olsson said.

“We’ve seen a lot of people wanting to take that route. People really want to travel by train, which is really great.”