Train strike due to roll into Sørlandet

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Nearly half of all the trains running along Norway’s southern coast will grind to a halt from Wednesday, after striking locomotive engineers decided to pull more of their colleagues off the job. The strike remains deadlocked, with no relief in sight for Oslo area commuters.

Commuters and other train passenger have faced hundreds of cancellations since a strike by locomotive engineers began September 28. PHOTO: newsinenglish.no

Commuters and other train passenger have faced hundreds of cancellations since a strike by locomotive engineers began September 28. PHOTO: newsinenglish.no

The labour federation representing the engineers decided on Friday to expand their strike after making no progress on their demands earlier this week. They’d already warned they would call more than the 118 engineers already off the job to join them on the picket lines. On Friday afternoon they announced that  just six would walk off the job, but they all work on Sørlandsbanen, the line running from Oslo to Kristiansand and up to Stavanger.

“This will considerably affect train traffic on Sørlandsbanen,” Rolf Ringdal, leader of the labour federation Norsk Lokomotivmannsforbund, told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). “It will hit around half its train service, halting two to four departures every day.”

The locomotive engineers had refrained from expanding their strike last week, but it has continued to cause major challenges for around 20,000 commuters in the Oslo area. They’ve had to find other ways of getting back and forth to work, because of all the train cancellations on heavily trafficked lines like Østfoldbanen.

The strike that began in late September is frustrating many, with no sign of any settlement. Ringdal has claimed that management at state railway NSB has shown no willingness to meet the engineers’ demands for a national training standard and insert it into their labour contract.

“Therefore we’re expanding the strike,” Ringdal told NRK. He claimed, though, that the engineers didn’t want to hit the Oslo-area commuter lines any harder, so opted to call out NSB engineers based in Kristiansand instead.

The two sides met for new talks on Tuesday but failed to reach any agreement. State government leaders have also refrained from stepping in and halting the strike, claiming it poses no threat to life or health.

Commuters must thus brace for another week of full buses and slow, heavy vehicular traffic into Oslo from places like Follo and elsewhere in Østfold. Many commuters are tackling the strike by working odd hours, or from home if possible, while others are car-pooling, cycling and even walking long distances. Taxi drivers have also seen a boom in their business.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund