Norway’s highly successful Airport Export Express train (Flytoget) that serves Oslo’s main airport at Gardermoen may be sold, likely to foreign buyers. The country’s new conservative government coalition has proposed selling the train to private interests and appears to have majority support for a sale in Parliament.
Newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) reported that neither of the government’s two support parties (the Christian Democrats and the Liberals) shares the opposition’s objections to a sale, meaning the government is poised to secure the political authority it needs to move forward with their proposal when Parliament reconvenes this autumn.
The Airport Express Train opened along with the new Oslo airport at Gardermoen in 1998, offering high-speed service from Oslo’s central station. The train was later expanded to serve Bærum, Asker and Drammen and it enjoys high passenger numbers. Plans are underway to expand service from three trains an hour on the western lines to six, in line with those running from downtown Oslo.
The train initially operated with large losses until the state forgave its debt in 2000. It has since logged operating profits of as much as NOK 338 million in 2013. Interest in buying the rail line is high, but all the interested parties are from abroad. The Labour Party, the Center Party and the Socialist Left party (SV) all oppose a sale to foreign interests, arguing foreign buyers could then start enjoying profits instead of the Norwegian state that helped make them possible.
Geir Pollestad of the Center party also argues that the train line represents important public infrastructure in Norway in addition to its newfound profits, and that both should remain under Norwegian control. Debate on a pending sale of Flytoget is thus expected to be lively this fall.