Revolution in train service delayed

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A much-hyped “revolution” in train service in Norway has met the same fate as much of the country’s train schedule. It’s been delayed, and the political opposition in Parliament calls that “incredibly embarrassing.”

Norway’s left-center government has allotted historically high levels of funding to improving the country’s ailing railroad infrastructure and its state-owned rail service. But needs are so great, say railway officials, that they can’t promise increased departures right now.

Instead, they need to prioritize maintenance of existing tracks, tunnels and stations. New double tracks and 50 new sets of carriages will eventually be introduced, but not by 2012 as the government had indicated.

“We have to make maintenance a priority and get the existing system we have working,” Lar Erik Bartnes, a state secretary for the Center Party in the transport ministry, told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK).

Concerns remain that the existing service, until the maintenance program is complete, will suffer again this winter when tracks get icy and covered with snow. A near breakdown in rail service last winter spurred the government into action and led to the increased budget allocations, but improvements can’t be made fast enough.

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