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TRAIN TRAVEL

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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Tips for short-haul foreign travel from Norway this Christmas

For the past two Christmases, strict Covid rules prevented many people from travelling. This year that isn't an issue, but there are a few things you should know about your journey this year.

Tips for short-haul foreign travel from Norway this Christmas

Whether you’re a foreigner in Norway planning a trip to see friends or relatives over the festive season or you’re planning a Christmas or New Year trip to Norway, there are several things worth keeping in mind when planning travel.

Strikes

If you’re taking a trip to the UK, be aware that rail workers are currently engaged in a protracted battle to secure pay increases that will help them cope with the soaring cost of living and have not ruled out further strikes over the festive season.

Several strike dates have been announced for December 2022 and January 2023. These may complicate your travel plans significantly after arriving in the UK. You can check the latest strike dates here. In addition, public transport workers in London will also strike throughout December.  

If you’re going to Italy, there are widespread air and rail strikes in November that could continue into December, while Germany has also seen airline strikes. Low-cost airlines in Spain are also staging strike action that is currently scheduled to last until after Christmas.

You can find the latest in Italy here, Spain here and Germany here.

Meanwhile, back in Scandinavia, SAS cabin crew could strike over wages and working hours if an agreement isn’t reached during meditation. If they strike, this could lead to a reduced schedule to and from Norway.  

Flying

Many airlines are struggling to bring back staffing to pre-pandemic levels, making it difficult to increase the number of flights to meet demand. The current oil prices have also significantly increased airlines’ fuel costs.

Long-haul flight prices have increased significantly, while short-haul prices have also risen. 

One tip would be to travel from different airports to get to your destination. 

For example, flights from Oslo Torp (Sandjefjord) are typically cheaper than flights from Oslo Gardermoen. The downside is that you will need to travel to the other airport, meaning the journey may take longer. 

Earlier this summer, most airports across Europe, Norway (pretty much) excluded, suffered staffing issues, which led to travel disruption and long delays. 

Trains

While Norway is quite well connected to neighbours Sweden, with regular connections between the two countries and overnight options, the country’s rail links to other nations leave much to be desired. 

Essentially, if you plan to take a train to your destination, you will need to first get to Sweden or Denmark and use those countries as hubs to reach the rest of Europe. 

With train tickets across Norway and other countries, for that matter, you’ll need to book relatively soon-ish or face being disappointed. 

The Seat 61 website provides tips on how to travel comfortably and affordably by train. It includes an introduction to train travel in Europe and an extensive search feature to find trains by starting location.

Here you can find a link for journey plans from Oslo to London and other European cities. However, be aware that Eurostar is running around one-third fewer services to avoid massive queues due to the post-Brexit passport check rules, and passengers are now advised to allow 90 minutes for pre-boarding checks. Financial troubles at the company have also seen ticket prices rise.

The Trainline is an international platform focused on train travel. The company is based in the UK but has extensive coverage of train travel in 45 countries across Europe.

The Trainline aims to find the cheapest tickets for a selected route. Most of the time, this means booking in advance.

Ferry

Taking a ferry is another option if you wish to avoid airport queues and all the hassle of checking in bags. The Oslo-Kiel line will get you to northern Germany. From there, you can head to the rest of Europe. Journeys on this route regularly sell out, though. 

For a family with a car, two adults and two children, tickets cost around 275 pounds per person for a return journey

Another option is the Kristiansand Eemshaven ferry, which travels from the south of Norway to outside Groningen in the Netherlands three times a week. Tickets, excluding the cost of a cabin, begin from 310 euros for a family of four and a car- 

Then there are various links to Denmark, where one can take the ferry to the top of the country or straight to Copenhagen and drive across the continent from there. Ferries from Norway include several routes from Larvik, Kristiansand, Langesund, Stavanger, and Bergen to Hirtshals. For a full overview of ferries from Norway, click here.  

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