In Pictures: Sweden’s worst railway bottleneck given new lease on life

In Pictures: Sweden's worst railway bottleneck given new lease on life
Stockholmers watch as a new railway bridge is installed. Photo: Stina Stjernkvist/TT
One of Sweden's worst bottlenecks for rail traffic has been given a makeover in what has been described as one of the most complex and crucial railway construction jobs in the near future.

Almost all trains heading between northern and southern Sweden have to pass through Stockholm via the so-called Getingmidjan – the famously narrow railway linking together Stockholm's Central Station and the Södermalm island via a bridge that passes right by the capital's historic Old Town.


A Stockholm metro train travels through the Getingmidjan section of the railway tracks. Photo: Hossein Salmanzadeh/TT

But it has been completely closed to all traffic north and southbound three summers in a row, meaning that all long-distance trains from the south have had to terminate south of the city, forcing passengers to get off and change to Stockholm's underground commuter train to reach or get through the city centre.


The new bridge weighs over 1,350 tonnes. Photo: Fredrik Persson/TT

This has been crucial in order to improve the railway and punctuality.

Last year 300 trains travelled through Stockholm via Getingmidjan every 24 hours, according to the Swedish Transport Administration's own estimates, which is a lot but is still down from previous years thanks to the new Citybanan underground tunnel for Stockholm commuter trains which opened in 2017.


Getingmidjan connects Stockholm's Södermalm island with central Stockholm. Photo: Erik Simander/TT

Getingmidjan was built in the 19th century – although it's from the 1950s in its current form – to connect the railways north and south of Stockholm, but its capacity is limited to two tracks, so any congestion often has national knock-on effects.

This is how it gets its name, which means 'wasp waist' like the historical women's fashion silhouette with a narrow waist compared to the hips and bust. In Swedish, the word flaskhals can also be used to refer to bottlenecks in general, either literal or figurative.


The Getingmidjan railway track on the left. Stockholm's City Hall can be seen on the far left. Photo: Stina Stjernkvist/TT

Since it runs through an area of historical significance, efforts to upgrade the stretch have been complicated. After the commuter railway line opened in 2017 there are no longer any plans for a third track, since the underground tunnel provides an alternative route and helps alleviate rail traffic problems in the city.

The construction project is estimated to give Getingmidjan another 80 years' lease on life.

Swedish vocabulary

train – (ett) tåg

railway – (en) järnväg

congestion – (en) trafikstockning

bottleneck – (en) flaskhals

railway track – (ett) järnvägsspår


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