The poor repair of Sweden's railways means reduced speed for many trains next year.Photo.Hans Zillén / Sveriges Radio
The poor repair of Sweden's railways means reduced speed for many trains next year.Photo.Hans Zillén / Sveriges Radio

Crumbling railways – now train speeds reduced

Trafikverket: slowly it'll get better but it's going to take some time
4:04 min

Work to upgrade Sweden's crumbling railways will hit passengers and businesses hard next year with the need to to reduce train speeds on even the busiest routes.   

Years of deferred maintenance has meant that in 2017, trains running on 20 rail routes in the country will have to operate at reduced speed while work to upgrade the crumbling infrastructure is carried out, the Swedish Transport Administration (Trafikverket) said on Monday.

It is not just low-traffic stretches that are affected. The Swedish Transport Administration report shows that even the busiest major rail routes from Stockholm to Gothenburg, with high-speed trains, will be affected.

"When we find that the track is worn then we will have to reduce speed for it to be safe," Bengt Olsson, chief press officer at the Swedish Transport Administration, told SVT News.

In several parts of both the southern and western mainline railways, track is in such poor condition that speed rates next year will be reduced to 130 km/h. Today, fast trains reach 200 km/h on the long stretches of rail lines.

"It's the same thing when you cannot drive a few hundred kilometers per hour on a dirt road. You have to keep the speed at which the track allows, said Bengt Olsson.

Niclas Härenstam, press officer at rail operator SJ, tells Swedish Radio News that the journey between Stockholm and Gothenburg will take between ten to 20 minutes longer due to maintenace work.

The report, seen by SVT News, also highlights the deteriorating condition of the country's railway bridges.

In Västerås, trains cross a bridge over the E18 motorway, which is the only entrance for trains from the north of the city. But Trafikverket has detected problems with the bridge.

"The bridge on the E18 has structural problems. There is a risk of reduced speed and a lower weight limit," Trafikverket states in its report.

In total, there are 16 railway bridges in the country which are considered to be in such poor condition that next year there must be a reduced speed limit or heavy weight limit for trains that travel on them.

Lower train speeds on railways will cause a problem for both commuters and businesses, said Trade Minister Mikael Damberg (S).

"The poor maintenance is also a huge cost for the Swedish export industry. If they cannot know that their goods will arrive when they should, no matter what they produce in Sweden. That is why the government is doing such a big upgrade of rail maintenance money," he told news agency TT.

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