Workers hoping for a new ferry connection to improve their often tortuous commute to Fornebu, the newly redeveloped business district at the site of Oslo’s former airport, must brace for delays. A new ferry service is subject to a public tender process that hasn’t even been initiated, and no decisions have been made for the location of a ferry terminal at Fornebu, Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported on Wednesday.
News of further delays emerged after a lengthy political argument that ended last year with a decision to open a ferry service in January 2014. It’s supposed to connect Aker Brygge on Oslo’s waterfront to Fornebu, site of that former airport that now is home to companies like Telenor, Statoil and Aker Solutions, several other high-tech businesses and Oslo’s largest sports and concert arena.
But politicians appear to have overlooked regulations providing for a public tender, allowing ferry operators to bid for contracts. On Wednesday, Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported those bureaucratic proceedings are likely to delay the project. Furthermore, the current ferry terminal at Aker Brygge is already operating at capacity, its operator says, and a ferry landing on the Fornebu side hasn’t even been projected.
That’s bad news for thousands of workers who have to rely on an overburdened bus line. Traffic conditions at Fornebu are chaotic at times, making people late for work and perhaps stuck at Fornebu after work because buses home are full. Also, lots of employees of the businesses there are expats, who typically don’t own a car.
The Oslo region had high hopes for Fornebu when the country’s main airport moved to Gardermoen in 1998. But for years, much of the area lay idle, with new business and residential areas developing slowly. As a result, city planners were in no hurry to improve infrastructure to the area.
The obvious choice – Bybane (a metro or light railway) – has been the subject of political quarreling for decades and still is. Part of the problem is that Fornebu is located in Bærum municipality, which is part of Akershus county. Akerhus owns 40 percent of Ruter, the leading provider of public transport in the Oslo region. But the City of Oslo is the majority owner of Ruter, a situation which has often landed the owners in petty arguments over budgets.
Meanwhile, several ideas have been floated for a sea connection. In May, West Norway ferry operator Norled, which also runs some ferries on the Oslo fjord, offered to run a temporary Fornebu service. Ruter replied that such a service is unlikely to attract enough passengers. Instead, Ruter wants to keep relying on buses.
Currently almost 40 buses serve Fornebu during peak hours, but as long-suffering commuters know, it’s not enough. Roads on Fornebu weren’t scaled for this kind of traffic either, and all those buses have to use the packed E18 highway to get from Oslo to Fornebu.
The sad story of Fornebu is a remarkable contrast to how the capital once built its key infrastructure. In the early 1900s, entrepreneurs first built the light railways such as Holmenkolbanen through empty countryside while purchasing the land next to the rails. They then got their money back by selling the land to city folks, who cherished the idea of moving to the new suburbs since there already was a train going there.
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