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Friday, May 20, 2022

Travelers brace for more train chaos

Commuters and tourists alike are being warned to expect major disruption on all train routes through Oslo, starting this weekend and continuing for the rest of the summer. Badly needed maintenance and improvements are forcing the closure of Oslo’s Central Station (Oslo S) from June 26 until August 8.

Oslo's central station will close to all thru-traffic from June 26 until August 8, so passengers need to prepare for delays and disruption. PHOTO: Views and News

Railway and railroad officials realize that’s the height of the tourist season, but it’s also the summer holiday period when commuter traffic declines markedly and when construction projects are easier to undertake than in the dead of winter. So to minimize disruption for the most people, the 45-day period with no thru-traffic in Oslo was set for the month of July plus a week on either end.

Only travelers on the lines from the southeast (Østfoldbanen) and abroad and will run into Oslo S. They will be shut down next summer, when state railroad Jernbaneverket continues to address the neglect that has caused countless service breakdowns in recent years. Next summer’s repair program, and accompanying disruption, will affect all lines and take as long as this year’s.

The comprehensive renewal program for signals, switches, tracks and other rail infrastructure is meant to ultimately lead to far more reliability of a train system that has developed a terrible reputation of late. When finished, “the railroad in the Oslo area will have the same high standard as the Airport Express Train (Flytoget), and a lifespan of at least 30 years,” Jernbaneverkets’ managing director Elisabeth Enger has said.

The massive improvement project approved by the left-center government coalition is costing billions but also is expected to save the billions lost when commuters don’t get to work on time. The last major breakdown occurred just a few weeks ago, when trains stood still for many hours and beleaguered officials of state railway NSB once again had to try to find alternate means of transport for stranded passengers.

They got a taste of what the planned disruptions from this weekend will be like, however, when some preliminary maintenance work was carried out during the recent pinse holiday weekend. It forced the closure of Oslo S and the National Theater stations and frustrated many passengers.

Now both NSB and Jernbaneverket officials hope passengers will be better prepared, without the disruptions coming as a surprise. They’re running public information campaigns (external link) and newspaper Aftenposten ran a full page of detailed information in Wednesday’s paper alerting readers to how they can hope to get around during the repair period.

The Airport Express Train, for example, will only run between Lillestrøm and Gardermoen. Bus service to the airport will be available from the Opera side of Oslo S. Trains from Stockholm and the Dovrebanen line from Trondheim will start and end at Lillestrøm as well.

The popular train over the mountains to Bergen (Bergensbanen) and the line south to Kristiansand (Sørlandsbanen) will leave from and arrive at Drammen, west of Oslo, but bus service between Oslo S and Drammen will be offered.

Most other westbound trains and trains from the west will start and end at the Lysaker station, while the Grefsen station will be the turnaround point for the Gjøvik line. From there passengers can transfer to the metro system known as T-bane.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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