Tourists sell out Oslo-Bergen train

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Never before have so many tourists been taking the train over the mountains between Bergen and Oslo. The popular line, known as Bergensbanen, has been been completely sold out in July, and the country’s other long-distance trains are running full as well.

A train on the Bergen line damaged driving lines and broke down in a tunnel on Wednesday night, forcing the evacuation of 130 passengers. The diesel engine brought in to tow the train caused further damage overnight, crippling the Bergen rail network throughout Thursday. PHOTO: Rolf M Sørensen/NSB

The train line running between Bergen and Oslo, called Bergensbanen, is drawing more passengers than ever before. Most all trains have been sold out in July, even those leaving at usually unpopular hours of the day and night. PHOTO: Rolf M Sørensen/NSB

“The summer holiday period is usually very busy for Bergensbanen, but this year it’s completely wild,” Åge Christoffer Lundeby, communications chief for state railway NSB, told newspaper Aftenposten on Wednesday.

Lundeby said NSB is especially seeing a strong increase in the number of travelers from China and Japan. He attributes it to favourable exchange rates, with the Norwegian krone now much weaker than it has been in recent years, and increased purchasing power of Asians.

“For me, this is great, the journey of a lifetime,” Haruka Miyazaki, a 29-year-old visitor from Japan, told Aftenposten before boarding the train in Oslo. Miyazaki was taking the classic trip on Bergensbanen, with a side trip on the Flåmsbanen down to Flåm and the Aurlandsfjord. The train taken by Miyazaki and Genta Rikitake, age 31, was among those sold out, but they had reserved their seats well in advance.

NSB can carry 600 passengers each way on Bergensbanen but could have run twice the number of trains this year and still had passengers waiting on the platform, according to Aftenposten. It’s all part of this year’s huge influx of tourists to Norway, which is breaking all previous records.

The train that also runs over mountains between Oslo and Trondheim, Dovrebanen, has also been drawing crowds all summer. Nordlandsbanen, which runs from Trondheim north to Bodø, is having a busy summer as well, with the line running between Oslo and Stavanger via Kristiansand (Sørlandsbanen) reporting traffic “over normal” otherwise in the year.

NSB has also reported passenger records for the first four months of the year, and said the summer tourist season has expanded and now seems to be starting in May. NSB has met demand by hiring more workers and running shifts where most on-board personnel work every other weekend. NSB also pays staff extra to take their own holiday in the spring or fall.

NSB’s train lines don’t always manage, however, to avoid technical problems. Passengers interviewed by Aftenposten later reported that their train broke down and they were transferred to buses for the remainder of their journey. Despite its growing ridership and popularity, Norwegian trains still don’t meet the standards or reliability of trains in Japan.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund

  • John Palmer

    I love train travel in Norway. And summer is a wonderful time of the year. But my favorite visit was in winter over Christmas. Almost no other tourists.

  • Ja_ja

    I took the Dovrebanen (both ways) this year and it’s probably the first and last time I’ll take the train over airplanes.

    The trip up was a night trip, and seeing as I chose the train principally because it was cheaper than flying I found the journey frustrating. The night train up didn’t have great seats suitable for a night journey – the like of which you find in Germany. The day time train back was more comfortable and of course one got to look at a bit.

    However this should be a journey that is doable in 3-4 hours not 7. The slow pace of the journey is extremely frustrating….with the train up stopping at every little village along the way, it was almost an hour before we arrived at Gardermoen (from Oslo). I hope the govt uses some of the new money from the extra flyseteavgift (seat air tax) to seriously improve the trai network. That would allow trains to compete with air travel domestically and be good for the environment. That said:

    How does one get a job at this great state place of work that pays extra to work during the summer?! If only all of us in the private sector were paid extra to take our holiday during the cheaper months of late spring and early autumn, (although let’s be honest – summer to nsb probably means only working July) I would take it.

    How about when they could see seat bookings were up months and months ago they didn’t set up new trains? Typical Norwegians – I often find here it is the bosses that act incredibly irresponsibly here during the summer – absolutely taking the prime time to go away on holiday – irregardless of whatever is going on.