Norway’s capital, intent on getting residents out of their cars and riding public transport instead, plans to spend NOK 10 billion over the next eight years to upgrade and expand the city’s tram system. It will be the biggest investment in Oslo’s tram lines ever.
“We are on the verge of launching three big projects,” Birte Sjule, who started work this month as the leader of tram agency Sporveien Trikken, told newspaper Dagsavisen.
The projects include the purchase of 87 new trams, an upgrade of the tram system’s infrastructure and establishment of a new base for the trams when they’re not in service. Sjule also noted that there will be a full evaluation of the current route system and tram stops, with an eye to having even more frequent service.
Tram service has improved dramatically in recent years, with some lines running every five minutes, especially during the morning and afternoon commuter rush. The tram system (known as trikken since they running an elektrikk/electricity) currently starts running just before 6am and ends around 1am, “so there are still some empty hours during the day,” Sjule said, that she’d like to fill.
Sjule, a 38-year-old civil engineer orginally from Mo i Rana in Northern Norway, has worked for the tram system for seven years, most recently in charge of strategic planning. The ever-growing popularity of the tram system has led to packed trams even outside the rush hours, so planning for expansion to meet demand has been a priority.
There’s also been a greater emphasis on maintenance of the trams. Of the 72 trams currently in service, operation is stable for 64 of them, up from 56. The goal is to have 66 in stable operation, with only six undergoing repair at any given time.
The current blue trams, some of which were delivered between 1982 and 1989 and the larger ones since 1995, will be phased out and replaced with new trams. The Oslo City Council approved buying 87 new trams last December, which will be phased in between 2020 and 2024. The first deliveries and testing are expected in the winter of 2019-2020, to be sure they tolerate snow and sub-freezing temperatures.
“For every additional tram we get, we can carry several thousand more passengers,” Sjule said. Around 30 million people regularly rode the tram in 2005. That’s risen to 54 million this year, and the planned expansion will allow that number to rise considerably. New planned routes include a line up to Tonsenhagen on Oslo’s northeast side, and over Filipstad on the western waterfront, which is targeted for redevelopment.
The biggest challenge will be the infrastructure and rail improvements. “The whole city will need to be dug up while we also will need to keep operating,” Sjule said.