Sweden could have trains to mainland Europe by 2022

It could soon be possible to take the train directly from Sweden all the way to Belgium, after a report recommended a Malmö-Cologne-Brussels route as an appropriate first step for government plans to increase international train travel. But there are several hurdles to overcome first.

Sweden could have trains to mainland Europe by 2022
Would you take the train from Sweden to Brussels? File photo: Petar Starčević/Pexels

If it became a reality, it would also be possible to travel onwards to London with just one change in the Belgian capital.

Sweden's government last year commissioned a report from the Transport Administration to outline how state procurement of night trains from Sweden to mainland Europe.

The report is now ready, and the agency suggests that Malmö to Brussels via Cologne would be a suitable first route, due both to favourable traffic conditions and onward connections from the Belgian capital.

That's a more extensive route than when the first report on the government assignment came in January, and a route of Malmö-Cologne was proposed.

“As we have deepened the investigation, we have seen that it is possible to extend the route to Brussels. Traffic to Brussels is more complex, based on capacity and technical aspects, than just reaching Germany, but still possible to implement,” said Anna Fällbom, Head of Unit Agreement and Financing at the Swedish Transport Administration.

But this doesn't mean the route will definitely happen.

First, Sweden would need to make agreements with the countries concerned relating to “duty of traffic”, which means that the operator agrees to provide a certain basic supply. The Transport Administration said that Germany had signaled it was not currently prepared to enter such an agreement. 

“It may be possible to put in place a solution where duty of traffic is only decided in Sweden and Denmark, and the traffic is subsequently commercial. However, there are doubts about such a solution and this needs to be studied further,” said Fällbom.

The next step would then be to find operators who can provide the vehicles, and then to go through the legal process to get the route set up.

If these obstacles can be overcome, the agency said that traffic on the route could be running as early as in two to three years' time.

Sweden's Foreign Ministry has advised against all non-essential overseas travel until June 15th, 2020, due to the uncertainty and infection risk associated with the ongoing coronavirus crisis. This deadline may be extended further, and state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell has told media that people in Sweden shouldn't necessarily be able to travel abroad until next year at the earliest.

When borders do start to open up again, there's likely to be high demand for international train travel due both to the climate crisis and the damage that the coronavirus emergency has done to the aviation industry, which may mean fewer departures and higher tickets for air travel.

Currently, it is possible to travel on direct trains from Sweden to Denmark and Norway, as well as to Berlin in the summer months when the Snälltåget traffics a route to the German capital.

Swedish vocabulary

Brussels – Bryssel

obstacle – (ett) hinder

investigation – (en) utredning

to advise against – att avråda från

agreement – (en) överenskommelse

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EXPLAINED: What’s behind the queues at Stockholm Arlanda airport?

Travellers are reporting queues over an hour long at Stockholm's Arlanda airport. What's going on and how long is it expected to last?

EXPLAINED: What's behind the queues at Stockholm Arlanda airport?

What’s the situation at Stockholm Arlanda airport? 

On Friday morning, there were queues lasting over an hour at Arlanda’s security controls. By 10am, they had been reduced to below half an hour, according to the live update the airport operator, Swedavia, maintains on its website here

Swedavia first began warning of long queue times on Monday, saying the queues were the result of a resurgence in travel combined with staffing shortages at Avarn, the contractor responsible for managing the security checks. 

“The wait times are due to a staff shortage with our security services contractor – which is caused by ongoing recruitment and absences due to illness,” the airport said on its website

What are travellers saying? 

Twitter is predictably awash with angry comments from travellers, including some well-known commentators. 

The terrorism researcher Magnus Ranstorp resorted to capital letters to bemoan the “CATASTROPHE” at the airport. 

The Financial Times’ Nordic Correspondent also compared the situation at Arlanda unfavourably with the smooth controls at Helsinki Airport

“Never seen anything like it and sounds like might be worse today. In Terminal 5 both queues, SAS and Norwegian, were well over 100 metres long,” he told The Local. “It took me 50 minutes to get through security. Don’t think it’s ever taken more than 10 in the Nordics before.” 

What should you do if you are travelling through Stockholm Arlanda at the moment? 

Swedavia recommends that you arrive “well in advance” when taking a flight. You can contact your airline here to find out when their check-ins and baggage drops open.  

Swedavia also recommends that you do everything possible to speed up the check-in process, such as:

  • checking in from home
  • packing hand baggage to make screening faster
  • checking the need for a face covering in advance
  • checking that you have the right travel documents ready 

If you can’t check in from home, Swedavia recommends seeing if you can check in using an automated machine at the airport.

What is the airport doing to to improve the situation? 

On June 15th, the airport is reopening Terminal 4, which might help somewhat, although the airport warns that as staffing is the major problem, having more space will not fully solve the problem over the summer. 

In a press release issued on Friday, Svedavia’s chief operations officer, Peder Grunditz, said opening a new terminal was “an important measure”. 

“We are now going to have the three biggest terminals back in operation for the first time since the pandemic,” he said. 

The company and Avarn are also making “big recruitment efforts” and taking “operational measures” to improve the queue situation, although the “challenging labour market” made that difficult. 

When will waiting times return to normal? 

In his press release, Grunditz conceded that waiting times were not likely to return to normal during the summer, due to the rapid growth in the number of people taking flights. 

“Even though we expect gradual improvements, the queuing situation is going to continue to be challenging during periods over the summer,” he said.