Strong support for new train tunnel

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A lack of capacity in today’s train tunnel under central Oslo will continue to pose a bottleneck for train travel all over southeastern Norway, even after major improvements are complete in 2012. State government officials are therefore proposing construction of another tunnel under the capital, and the idea is being well-received.

“This is very positive,” the deputy leader of the Parliament’s transport committee, Anne Marit Bjørnflaten of the Labour Party, told newspaper Aftenposten . “We have to do something about the capacity problems, which will get even bigger as the population grows.”

“We’ve been wanting a new Oslo Tunnel for a long time,” said Hallgeir Langeland, a member of Parliament for the Socialist Left. Even the Conservatives were enthusiastic, complaining only that the left-center government is being too “careful” in moving forward with the plan.

It’s being put forth by Transport Minister Magnhild Meltveit Kleppa of the Center Party, who’s under severe pressure to finally “do something” about the chronic train trouble that’s plagued commuters and long-distance passenger for years.

The new tunnel she’s proposing would be the most expensive transport project ever undertaken in Norway. Kleppa said the maintenance and improvements being made in the existing tunnel “are very important … but we also need to focus on an even better solution. And then a new tunnel can be an alternative.”

She’s asking the state agency in charge of railroad infrastructure in Norway, Jernbaneverket, to draft a plan for a new tunnel.

“I hope it can be done quickly,” said Knut Arild Hareide of the Christian Democrats, leader of the Parliament’s transport committee. “It’s very good that the minister is sending a clear signal on this.”

Hareide was among those complaining loudly earlier this month when train service all but ground to a halt because of old equipment and weather-related problems. He has claimed that Norway’s train system is suffering from an acute confidence crisis, and that the public no longer can rely on it.