Airport trains need to expand

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Heavy and constantly growing traffic in and out of Oslo’s main airport at Gardermoen (OSL) is forcing expansion not only of the airport itself but of the Airport Express Train (Flytoget) that gets many passengers there. Airport officials, meanwhile, are also working to streamline international transfers through OSL.

The Airport Express Train serving Oslo's main airport at Gardermoen (Flytoget) is more popular than ever, but capacity is strained because of strong airport passenger growth. PHOTO: newsinenglish.no

Summer crowds over the weekend illustrated how the Airport Express Train serving Oslo’s main airport at Gardermoen (Flytoget) is more popular than ever, but capacity is strained because of strong airport passenger growth. PHOTO: newsinenglish.no

Airport train capacity is under strain, not least during the busy summer tourist season. “We see already today that folks have to stand on the express trains, because there’s not enough seats heading for OSL,” Flytog chief executive Linda Bernander Silseth told newspaper Aftenposten recently. “That’s a Flytog-standard we don’t want.”

The express trains that started serving OSL when it opened just 15 years ago logged a record number of passengers themselves during the first six months of this year. A total of 3.3 million passengers traveled either to or from Gardermoen on Flytoget, an increase of 120,000 from the first half of last year.

Passenger growth at OSL itself continues to set new records, too. A total of 2.2 million passengers traveled into and out of OSL in June alone, up more than 18 percent from June of last year, when travelers also set a record from the year before that. Friday June 14 marked a new record in terms of daily traffic, with a total of 86,982 passengers landing or taking off from OSL. Most of the growth came from international travel, with Oslo-London routes showing the strongest passenger numbers, although domestic routes from Oslo to Tromsø in ever-popular Northern Norway and Trondheim also show strong passenger growth.

Streamlining international transfers
All told, more than 250 million passengers have traveled through OSL since it opened on October 8, 1998, and that’s fueled the major terminal expansion project now underway. The airport also is working to streamline transfers through OSL by eliminating the need for international passengers arriving at OSL to claim their bags and check them in again for onward travel in Norway.

“We’re eager to get a new system underway and remove an irritating task for many travelers,” Knut Holen, terminal director at OSL, told Aftenposten. The new system, which reportedly has broad political support but awaits formal approval, is expected to also attract more international routes, airlines and revenues to OSL because transfer times will be greatly reduced.

Meanwhile, Flytoget wants to run more trains every 10 minutes from the Lysaker station to OSL. It’s appealing a rejection of the application to state railroad Jernbaneverket and also is studying major investment in new trains that would increase Flytoget’s capacity. “We believe this is absolutely necessary, but it’s a huge investment,” Silseth told Aftenposten. Planning is in the preliminary stages.

Both bus lines serving the airport, SAS Flybussen and Flybussekspressen, are also ready to respond to passenger growth to and from OSL. “We’re following developments closely, and if we see we have capacity problems, we can literally address them overnight,” said chief executive Bjørn Østsby of Flybussekspressen. Norwegian authorities have long promoted use of public transport for OSL-bound travelers and discouraged driving to the airport.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund