After spending many years and a stunning NOK 36 billion (USD 3.6 billion) to build what was supposed to be a fast and reliable high-speed commuter line, officials at Norwegian rail agency Bane Nor were red-faced and forced into making apologies on Monday. Their new Follobanen will be standing still through this last busy week before the Christmas holidays, just a week after it opened.
The shutdown has been blamed on problems with electricity supplies on the line between Oslo’s central station and Ski. Several other lines are also affected. The major trouble also follows a serious power outage on another busy commuter line northeast of Oslo.
All train traffic slowed to a halt early Monday, just a week after Follobanen was ceremoniously opened by King Harald, Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre and Oslo Mayor Marianne Borgen. A fire in a critical coupling installation cut electricity and the damage is “quite extensive,” Bane Nor spokesman Gunnar Børseth told news bureau NTB.
“This is very unfortunate for our customers,” Børseth said. “We send a big apology to them. We have had a fire we couldn’t predict, and we’re working hard so we can fix this as soon as possible.” Follobanen is likely to be shut down at least until early Friday morning.
Snow and even some rain, meanwhile, further complicated Monday’s commute because of extremely slick roads that resulted in several accidents. The four-lane E6 highway even closed Monday afternoon, after a truck jacknifed near Svinesund on the major artery connecting Norway to Sweden and south to the European continent. Motorists caught behind the accident were forced to sit in their vehicles for hours.