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Thursday, May 23, 2024

Challenges loom for commuters

More than 100,000 Norwegians are being warned that it may be challenging to get to and from work next week and just about anywhere else. Public transit systems in the southeastern portion of the country will undergo major route changes from December 9, while state meteorologists were forecasting snow at the same time.

Transport Minister Marit Arnstad was among those unveiling a massive new public transport route system that will take effect next week. Its introduction may be further complicated by snow and ice. PHOTO: Samferdselsdepartementet

A deep freeze has already settled over most of the country with morning temperatures as low as minus-16C in Oslo and minus-19C in outlying areas. In some portions of Telemark and Oppland counties, for example, thermometers dove well into the minus-20sC, and it’s bitterly cold in the north and most other places in Norway.

The weather has, however, been sunny and relatively dry, so it hasn’t yet brought the snow and ice that often slow down both vehicular and rail traffic. That’s due to change by Monday.

“We’re expecting a low pressure system from the west around the weekend and in the beginning of next week,” state meteorologist Arild Mentzoni told newspaper Aftenposten on Tueday. “How much is still unclear, but any precipitation will come in the form of snow.”

That prompted state Transport Minister Marit Arnstad, state railway boss Geir Isaksen and the chief of the metropolitan transit system Ruter, Bernt Reitan-Jenssen, to warn commuters that the weather combined with massive route changes may cause disruptions next week.

“We’re asking for patience,” Arnstad said when the route changes were formally rolled out on Monday.

Biggest change in decades
The changes involve new timetables for most all of the bus, metro and train routes in and around Oslo. Not only will many routes have new departure times but they also may have new traffic patterns with changes in the stops along the way. All the drivers on the train, bus and metro systems will have to adjust as well.

“There can be some days with demanding adjustments, but all in all, we hope it will go well,” Isaksen, who heads state railway NSB, told reporters. Elisabeth Enger of state railroad Jernbaneverket, which is responsible for railroad infrastructure, said her crews would also have as much snow removal equipment available as possible.

The route changes are part of an ongoing improvement program after hundreds of millions of public funds are finally being invested in new infrastructure and service.

Introduction of the route changes will also coincide with the presence in Oslo of prime ministers and presidents from all over Europe who’ve been invited to the annual Nobel Peace Prize ceremony on December 10. Some streets in the downtown area will be closed for security reasons and there will also be various parades and demonstrations both Sunday the 9th and Monday the 10th.

Ruter was dispatching staff to Oslo Central Station, the bus terminal and several key stations this week to help inform commuters of the coming changes, while NSB officials also planned to step up information efforts.

Meanwhile, commuters were already having to get used to bitter cold as they waited for their bus, tram or train this week. The sub-freezing temperatures were due to continue all week and into next week, although they may rise a bit with the predicted arrival of the low pressure system.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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