Norway’s unreliable train system looks set for ongoing disruption, but there may be some light at the end of the tunnel. More Norwegians are riding the rails, despite delays and cancellations, and maintenance programs are finally underway.
All westbound train service from Oslo has been shut down for the next several weeks, as maintenance crews replace and modernize power lines within the main tunnel running between Skøyen and Oslo’s Central Station (Oslo S). Train service is being replaced by bus until at least August 8.
The work inside the Oslo tunnel is an important part of the state railroad Jernbaneverket’s long-needed modernization and maintenance program, reports newspaper Aftenposten. Work will continue through next summer as well, though, meaning that results won’t be seen until 2012.
That means at least another two years of disruption on the key train lines through Oslo, which also affect lots of intercity train travel, for example to Bergen.
Norway’s trains have been plagued with repeated signal malfunctions and power cuts, mostly because of years of negligence. The government has allocated around NOK 2 billion for improvements, but it’s expected far more funding will be needed to get the system back on track.
The work comes after another string of trouble earlier this summer, following last winter’s record number of delays and cancellations. In late June, for example, the popular line between Oslo and Bergen was halted several times because of equipment failure, while service from Oslo to Stavanger was also delayed repeatedly.
Some passengers became so frustrated that they verbally abused and threatened conductors on board state railway NSB’s lines several times, reported newspaper Dagsavisen recently. NSB filed 19 police reports so far this year following the threats and even physical attacks against the conductors.
Despite all the recent train trouble, passenger counts continue to rise. More than 16 million people traveled on NSB’s lines during the first four months of this year, with traffic on the Oslo-Trondheim line up 5 percent.