Railway employees all over Norway walked off the job for two hours on Thursday, to protest implementation of the latest package of EU rules and requirements. The strike not only brought all train traffic to a standstill but was also expected to lead to cancellations and delays throughout the day.
Members of employees’ organizations Norsk Lokomotiv-mannsforbund (NLF) and Norsk Jernbaneforbund think railway regulations in Norway should be formulated and decided by Norwegian officials. NLF leader Rolf Ringdal told state broadcaster NRK that the new “EU rail package” overrides Norwegian authority over the country’s own rail system.
“The EU wants to make it obligatory to have competition within all passenger train traffic,” Ringdal told NRK. “We believe that will weaken overall train service in Norway.” NLF claims that Norway’s decison to accept the EU rules, even though Norway is not a member of the EU, will make train service less democratic since Norwegian voters will no longer be able to influence “what kind of train service we shall have.” Norway, claim the unions, stands to lose control over its own railroad and railways.
The workers are thus signaling their displeasure through the strike, which ran from noon to 2pm and included protests in front of Parliament, in cities including Trondheim, Bergen and Stavanger and several smaller communities. The Airport Express Train that serves Oslo’s main airport at Gardermoen was also affected.
Trains in service when the strike began proceeded to or remained at the nearest station at noon and were to park there for the next two hours. NRK reported that Oslo’s trams and metro system would also be affected, but only between 12:30 and 1pm. Several bus lines were also affected by sympathy strikes.
No alternative transport was offered by state railway Vy, formerly NSB, and bus service was expanded. Vy officials warned that since it “would take time” to get parked trains back in position on their various routes, passengers would likely face delays through the afternoon commuter rush.
Transport Minister Jon Georg Dale of the conservative Progress Party has defended the EU’s latest regulations that are meant to streamline service around Europe and create an inner market for railroad services. Dale claims it will become simpler to approve new trains for service and issue safety certificates. Since Norway is a member of the EU’s European Economic Area it’s generally expected to go along with EU regulations.