Train passengers and cargo customers in Norway were being warned that the country’s entire railroad system would grind to a halt on Monday. Train employees were set to walk off the job for three hours in the middle of the day, to protest the government’s proposed railroad reform.
State train operator NSB, the state-owned company in charge of the tracks and other rail infrastructure (Jernbaneverket) and the Airport Express Train (Flytoget) that serves Oslo’s main airport at Gardermoen were to all shut down from 10 am to 1pm, when employees went on what they call a “political strike.” It wasn’t clear how, or even whether, the strike disruption would drum up public support for the railroad workers, but it would certainly make their discontent known.
The government wants to reform Norway’s long-troubled train system through a major reorganization and by ushering in new competition. Reform plans would remove NSB’s monopoly on most train lines, and, the government claims, make the railroad system more efficient by reorganizing most of its operations and lines of responsibility.
The unions oppose further moves to split up railroad operations, claiming the effect will be the opposite of what the government intends. “Passengers will get worse service, and no one will take responsibility later,” Kjell Atle Brunborg, leader of the union Norske Jernbaneforbund, told newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN). He also claimed the monopoly aspects of current operations won’t change, since the state will choose which new players may take over routes.
The reform plans are up for a vote in Parliament on Monday and were expected to win approval since the two parties supporting Norway’s minority government coalition have already said they’ll vote in favour of the measure.