Majority in Parliament supports high-speed trains

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It may only take a few hours to travel by train between Oslo and Bergen or Oslo and Trondheim, if politicians follow through on ambitious plans for high-speed train lines in Norway. New surveys indicate that a majority of members of Parliament support the project.

Both Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) and newspaper Aftenposten were reporting Friday morning that all of the parties represented in Parliament, with the exception of the most conservative Progress Party (Fremskrittspartiet), support development of high-speed train lines in Norway.

The country’s mountainous territory, sometimes harsh winter weather and relatively small population have long been considered serious stumbling blocks to development of high-speed trains in Norway. Now an analysis by European railway giant Deutsche Bahn has concluded that high-speed trains can operate and even be profitable, despite huge investment demands of several hundred billion kroner.

That has prompted a shift in political sentiment, and a majority in Parliament was due to vote Friday on a new national transportation plan that would include high-speed train lines. The goal is to attract passengers who now fly between Norway’s cities.

The first high-speed line would likely be a so-called “Inter-City Triangle” connecting Oslo with Halden on the southern border to Sweden, Lillehammer in Gudbrandsdalen and Skien in Telemark. Next would come lines from Oslo to Trondheim, Stavanger and Bergen, and Gothenburg and Stockholm in Sweden, reports Aftenposten .

“This is a milestone,” said Hallgeir Langeland, transportation spokesman for the Socialist Left party that’s one of the three parties making up Norway’s coalition government. While the government itself has put off a decision on high-speed lines, a majority of MPs like Langeland will vote for a measure that calls for development, as quickly as possible, of trains running as fast as 250 kilometers an hour.