Stockholm to Oslo train links ‘would save half a million plane journeys’

A faster train service between Stockholm and Oslo could save half a million journeys by plane, a joint study carried out by the Swedish Transport Agency and Norwegian Railway Directorate has found. 

Pictured is a train in Oslo.
A train comes into Oslo Central Station. Photo: Magnus Engo/Unsplash

A joint study between the Transport Agency and Norwegian Railway Directorate found that building the so called “Gränsbanen” or border railway, with new tracks linking either Lillestrøm or Ski in Norway with the Swedish town of Arvika, would cut more than an hour off the current 5 hour 13 minute journey between Stockholm and Oslo. 

As a result, the two agencies predict that more than half a million of those who fly between the two capitals every year would instead take the train, dramatically reducing carbon emissions. 

Despite this, the joint study found building the Gränsbanen alone would not provide sufficient benefits to balance out the cost — of between 20 and 45 billion Norwegian kroner (21-48bn Swedish kronor) for Lillestrøm-Arvika and 25 to 60 billion kroner (27-64bn SEK) for Ski-Arvika. 

“The cost-benefit ratio comes to -9.5bn Norwegian kroner,” Bente Bukholm, project leader for the study at the Norwegian Railway Directorate, told Sweden’s TT newswire. “But it’s pretty common that you end up with a negative cost-benefit ratio for society with big railway projects, because they are so expensive to build.

Jonas Karlsson, the chief executive of the local government-owned lobbying company Oslo-Stockholm 2.55, told The Local that the agencies themselves in their report pointed out that the elements that went into the cost-benefit ratio were far from representative, with only the Gränsbanen taken into account. 

Oslo-Stockholm 2.55 is joint-owned by three Swedish regions — Värmland, Västmanland and Örebro — and three city governments Karlstad, Västerås, and Örebro. It is pushing to bring the journey time to below three hours. 

“We have made a cost benefit analysis for the project which is positive,” Karlsson said. “The big difference is that we have looked into the benefits if you establish [a link] all the way between Stockholm and Oslo: if you make a double track on Värmlandsbanan and if you make Nobelbanan.” 

It would take building the Nobelbanan, a new track linking Örebro and Kristinehamn, to bring the journey down under three hours, something Karlsson reckons is reasonable, seeing as the two capitals are only just over 400km away from one another as the crow flies. 

They believe that such a link could replace a million air journeys a year, double as many as predicted in last week’s joint Swedish-Norwegian report. 

“The huge amount of travel that goes on between Stockholm and Oslo is mainly done by air,” he said. “Before Covid there were 22 flights a day in each direction. It was the 20th biggest air connection in the world if you look at the number of flights, and air connection had a market share of 88 percent.” 

He said that the distance was sufficiently short that there is no need for a high-speed rail link able to take trains at more than 250 km/h. Normal express trains would be able to do it in under three hours. 

He pointed that the total cost of about 65 billion kronor for all the new connections, while significant, was much less than the 325 billion kronor required for new high speed rail links proposed between Stockholm and Gothenburg and Malmö. 

Also, because it would use existing train lines, the Stockholm-Oslo link would also benefit the regions along the way and allow regional transport to be improved.

Despite the conclusion that the cost-benefit ratio was negative, Karlsson said that the joint report, as well as support from many prominent Moderate MPs, was “very positive”: 

“It said that they recommend that the governments in Sweden and Norway continue their investigation into this project, and get into traditional planning for for this, so I’m very happy for that,” he said. “I think there is a good opportunity right now.”

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Bergen City Council gives the green light to controversial light rail project

A 21 billion kroner light rail line from Åsane to Bryggen has received a majority vote from Bergen City Council.

Bergen City Council gives the green light to controversial light rail project

A majority of the city council voted in favour of the new line, which will stretch 12.7 kilometres from Åsane to the UNESCO World Heritage site of Bryggen. In total, 36 councillors voted in favour of the project, while 31 were in opposition.

The light rail project will cost 21 billion kroner, and construction could begin in 2025. The line will have 14 stops. In addition, 5.7 kilometres of the new tunnel will be built, while 13 kilometres of cycle paths will be laid.

A light rail running to the city centre has been widely debated in Bergen for over a decade. On Wednesday, demonstrations in favour and against the project were held outside the town hall in Bergen.

The project’s future has yet to be fully secured, as much will depend on how much of the bill the state will pick up.

Next year, the government will unveil a new national transport plan. Details on how much of the bill the state will pick up will become more apparent.

Bergen City Council Leader Rune Bakervik and City Council Development Leader Ingrid Nergaard Fjeldstad will meet with the Norwegian Minister for Transport, Jon-Ivar Nygård, to discuss the project in the coming days.

Bakervik has said he is confident of securing funding from the government for the project.

“(We are confident) because we have a government that is adamant that we must contribute to reducing climate emissions, and in the west, the Bybanen is the biggest project. Here I have a clear expectation that the government will stand by its promise,” he told public broadcaster NRK.

The city council predicts that up to 60,000 passengers will use the Bybannen to Åsane by 2040.