Never before have so many tourists been taking the train over the mountains between Bergen and Oslo. The popular line, known as Bergensbanen, has been been completely sold out in July, and the country’s other long-distance trains are running full as well.
“The summer holiday period is usually very busy for Bergensbanen, but this year it’s completely wild,” Åge Christoffer Lundeby, communications chief for state railway NSB, told newspaper Aftenposten on Wednesday.
Lundeby said NSB is especially seeing a strong increase in the number of travelers from China and Japan. He attributes it to favourable exchange rates, with the Norwegian krone now much weaker than it has been in recent years, and increased purchasing power of Asians.
“For me, this is great, the journey of a lifetime,” Haruka Miyazaki, a 29-year-old visitor from Japan, told Aftenposten before boarding the train in Oslo. Miyazaki was taking the classic trip on Bergensbanen, with a side trip on the Flåmsbanen down to Flåm and the Aurlandsfjord. The train taken by Miyazaki and Genta Rikitake, age 31, was among those sold out, but they had reserved their seats well in advance.
NSB can carry 600 passengers each way on Bergensbanen but could have run twice the number of trains this year and still had passengers waiting on the platform, according to Aftenposten. It’s all part of this year’s huge influx of tourists to Norway, which is breaking all previous records.
The train that also runs over mountains between Oslo and Trondheim, Dovrebanen, has also been drawing crowds all summer. Nordlandsbanen, which runs from Trondheim north to Bodø, is having a busy summer as well, with the line running between Oslo and Stavanger via Kristiansand (Sørlandsbanen) reporting traffic “over normal” otherwise in the year.
NSB has also reported passenger records for the first four months of the year, and said the summer tourist season has expanded and now seems to be starting in May. NSB has met demand by hiring more workers and running shifts where most on-board personnel work every other weekend. NSB also pays staff extra to take their own holiday in the spring or fall.
NSB’s train lines don’t always manage, however, to avoid technical problems. Passengers interviewed by Aftenposten later reported that their train broke down and they were transferred to buses for the remainder of their journey. Despite its growing ridership and popularity, Norwegian trains still don’t meet the standards or reliability of trains in Japan.