One of the main commuter lines around Oslo, Østfoldbanen, may all but grind to a halt this weekend. A strike by locomotive engineers is due to spread, with its decision to pull 118 off the job on Saturday forcing state railway to cancel all local train service on the Østfold line.
News bureau NTB reported that an estimated 20,000 passengers will affected when trains between Oslo and Ski, Moss and other destinations in Østfold are halted. “The strike will create a dramatic situation for Østfoldbanen, but it’s the nature of a strike that it spreads when no solution is found,” Geir Isaksen, chief executive of NSB, told state broadcaster NRK on Tuesday.
The union representing the locomotive engineers, Norsk Lokomotivmannsforbund, had already warned that the strike would spread from October 8. After pulling 68 engineers off the trains when the strike began last week, another 33 in Moss have been called out on strike plus three more in Oslo and six in Bergen.
All told, 118 will be on strike around the country, but mostly on local lines in the Oslo area. Those hit the worst have included the local commuter lines between Spikkestad and Lillestrøm, Stabekk and Ski, Kongsberg and Eidsvoll, Drammen and Dal, Asker and Kongsvinger, Stabekk and Moss, and Skøyen and Mysen/Rakkestad.
In addition to halting local passenger service on the Østfold line through Oslo, some cancellations were also expected in Bergen and a few night trains will be halted between Oslo and Bergen.
“We have to respect that our counterparts started a strike, and pulled out the engineers mentioned with the consequences that has,” Isaksen told NRK. He claimed NSB had “pointed to constructive solutions, but we must have the engineers with us. I can’t stop this strike alone.”
The conflict, as reported last week, is over how demands for engineer training should be met. The engineers claim they’re keen on ensuring national standards, while critics say they’re just as keen on protecting their jobs from foreign competition.
Isaksen said there had been no talks since the strike began last Thursday, officially between the engineers’ trade union federation LO Stat and employers’ organization Spekter.
NSB is unable to offer alternative forms of transport to commuters and other passengers, because that would be viewed as strike-busting.
“We don’t want to disrupt service for passengers,” claimed Rolf Ringdal, leader of the engineers’ union, “but when NSB refuses to commit itself to good engineer training, we must respond by extending the strike. We’re willing to strike for a long time, to stop NSB’s shaving of locomotive engineers’ training.”