All trains in the entire country stood still Monday evening, because of a breakdown in the communications system used by Norway’s beleaguered state railroad Jernbaneverket. Thousands of passengers from Fredrikstad in the south to those on Nordlandsbane in the north had to find alternative means of transport, or simply wait.
It was another embarrassing breakdown for Jernverket and it took three hours before trains finally could start rolling again. Delays were expected throughout the night.
News of the breakdown came right in the middle of the nightly national newscast on NRK, so Jernbaneverket officials had to report the problem on live television. The complete and utter shutdown of all rail service in Norway was the latest in a long, long line of train trouble in recent months.
All trains, from commuter lines to the high-speed Airport Express Train in Oslo to freight trains, were affected. A Jernbaneverket spokesman said that was because the communications failure made it impossible for rail traffic controllers to reach the engineers on board the trains, “and the rules dictate that then all trains must stop running.”
Emergency procedures called for them to proceed slowly to the nearest station, and wait for communication to be restored. Passengers could choose to either remain on board or get off and find other modes of transportation.
That wasn’t so easy for those on long-distance trains in remote locations, and with the Easter holidays in full swing, that affected many passengers. Others had more choices, and in Oslo the taxi business had a bonanza in what otherwise would be a slow holiday period.
Officials for state railway NSB had to once again try to assist passengers affected by Jernbaneverket’s problems. Aftenposten.no reported that they frantically tried to arrange taxi pools at Oslo’s central station, for example putting four passengers bound for Drammen in the same taxi. Others were pooled for transport to points as far off as Lillehammer or Skien.
Airport Express Train staff were also quickly trying to get passengers to Oslo’s main airport at Gardermoen, to help them avoid missing flights.
The situation at Oslo’s central station was chaotic, with passengers waiting for updates from Jernbaneverket officials who had no idea when train service would resume. It finally did, around 9:30pm.