Wintertime tourists may enjoy Norway’s snow, but Oslo-area commuters faced more frustration on Thursday when a heavy snowfall halted trains, made driving hazardous and even was blamed for a tram derailment in the city. Police issued bulletins urging motorists to avoid using their cars.
Trains from Skien to Oslo were cancelled after a snow- and rockslide blocked tracks between Oklungen in Telemark and Larvik in Vestfold. Alternative transport was being arranged, but according to the Norwegian National Rail Administration (Jernbaneverket) the snowy weather was causing several problems.
Trains were halted across eastern of Norway, where between 20 and 25 centimeters of snow had fallen since Wednesday, when even Jernbaneverket’s public address system failed to function during the morning commuter rush. Certain departures between Lillestrøm and Skøyen were cancelled on Thursday, with Jernbaneverket also citing reasons other than weather, for example a lack of carriages.
Airline and highway traffic were also hit by the large amounts of snow, with flights delayed out of Torp Airport in Sandefjord, restricted landings at Oslo’s main airport at Gardermoen, and temporary closure of the main E6 highway northeast of Oslo near Minnesund following a head-on collision.
Newspaper Aftenposten reported earlier this week that public transport delays are costing billions of kroner every year in lost productivity. A time-value analysis conducted by Urbanet for public transport agency Ruter estimated the socio-economic cost of delays to be around NOK 3 billion (USD 500 million).
According to the study, passengers are also demanding more frequent departures, fewer transfers, more seating and more space on board. Delays are considered a significant problem. Bård Nordheim, a manager at Urbanet, warns that without improvements, passengers are more likely to abandon the public transport system and drive to work.
“Economic growth and increased wealth are causing commuters to expect more,” he told Aftenposten.
Delays in public transport have become common in Norway during the winter season. This year has been no exception, despite an increase in scheduled departures and, finally, government funding for improvements.
It remained unclear, though, whether most Norwegians would indeed opt for their cars over public transport. Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported that several people were observed skiing to work in Larvik Thursday morning.