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Transport hit as snowstorms ravage Sweden

Transport hit as snowstorms ravage Sweden

Published: 21 Feb 2010 11:42 GMT+01:00
Updated: 21 Feb 2010 13:49 GMT+01:00

Sweden came to a near standstill over the weekend when wind-packed snowstorms blanketed a nation still recovering from earlier snowfalls. Citizens were advised to remain homebound when possible, until railway tracks and highways were cleared.

Key intercity and commuter train services were cancelled, for the most part, as personnel worked around the clock to clear snow and ice from tracks and frozen switches. Passengers were advised to check appropriate websites for updated schedules before heading for stations.

Alternative bus transport could not be assured because of highway conditions.

Ambulance and rescue services were also delayed over the weekend. “People have had to wait for ambulances. We’ve had several cases where ambulances have found it very difficult to arrive. This has been a problem throughout the southern part of the country,” said Anders Klarström, spokesman at SOS Alarm Sverige (Sweden).

It has been the worst winter in 22 years. Klarström said northern Sweden managed better because the region is more accustomed to severe winters. But “you can see with your naked eyes that resources in the southern regions simply don’t suffice. We simply weren’t prepared to deal with as much snow as we’ve experienced this winter.”

It was unclear when the important Stockholm-Göteborg train route would be fully operational. Over the weekend about ten of these trains were running up to 15 hours late, according to the information department of Swedish Railways (SJ).

In Göteborg, Frida Grönberg boarded a Stockholm-bound train at 1:30 Saturday afternoon. Just before arriving in Hallsberg the train came to a dead halt. Switches had frozen.

According to the newspaper Aftonbladet, Grönberg and fellow travelers spent the night in an atmosphere of confusion and outright aggressiveness. The mood was grim. “I saw a passenger who opened an emergency door and simply jumped out,” she told the newspaper.

Personnel had no information whatsoever. “They wandered about, and sweared. They heard nothing from management

“There were no buses, nothing.”

The train was still stuck at 2 am Sunday morning when somebody got very sick. A conductor walked about and asked if there were any doctors onboard. “This is an emergency. I’ve got to ring 112 (emergency telephone service),” he said.

Thirty minutes later the train finally got underway for the long trip to Stockholm, and got as far as Södertälje near the Swedish capital before getting stuck once again. “We couldn’t take it anymore, and disembarked. We managed to get a taxi that drove us to a youth hostel.”

Worst hit was Western Sweden. In the province of Västergötland, special vehicles with chains were deployed to deliver insulin and other vital medicines to the homes of chronically sick citizens.

Numerous accidents were reported on the nation’s highways, “but in spite of extremely poor road conditions the number of truly serious accidents was relatively low,” said Thomas Andersson, information manager at the Swedish Road Administration (Vägverket).

Snow-laden rooftops verging on collapse posed a hazard. Part of a shopping center in Jönköping was sealed off after shoppers noticed alarming conditions. The roof of a recreational center in Borås collapsed during football training. Nobody was hurt.

In the past two weeks collapsing roofs have raised questions about their construction. Until the end of the 1980s the construction of rooftops was overseen by an independent inspector. Since then, the contractors themselves have been given this task.

Roger Choate (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

15:41 February 21, 2010 by Nemesis
I am in Central Skåne.

In my town I deliver reklam on a sunday morning and mid day to two areas.

The snowploughs were out early this morning.

The gritters are still gritting streets as I write at 15.30, trying to keep the streets clear, as are the snowploughs.

Te bad weather has been sustained for a few weeks now. I think the Swedish system were I live is holding up quite well. My friends in other kommunes in Småland, Halland and Norrland, say the same thing.

It is not perfect I know, but they are doing well even with recent underfunding.

The people out clearing the roads, pathways, railways and airports should be given a bit of support.

I work in that weather one day a week, only, in which if there is a eather warning I can work a day early or late. Those workers work around the clock, no matter what to keep the country running.

I for one am grateful to the Swedish workers who go out no matter what the weather and keep the country running.

When I first came to Sverige two decades ago it was actually worse. Recent complacency by all political parties has stripped out funding, equipment and training. That needs to be reversed before there is a major incident as the system can no longer be thinned out without a major failure, though no fault of the workers keeping the system running.

The workers who keep the country running, should be given more support and respect.

If this weather had hit the UK or Ireland, both would now be major disaster zones, where'as Sverige takes it in its stride. Swedes should be proud of there ability to repond to bad weather.
18:17 February 21, 2010 by dobermann
I hate this winter.This morning I was waiting for metro train for more than two hours, there was so cold in metro station as outside of it.. Now I feel that I am sick..
18:36 February 21, 2010 by morchad
agree with Nemesis, everyone does a pretty good job here! I don't think the sensationalist type news helps anyone, it only makes those feeling bad - worse.

Well done everyone, it will be over soon :-)
20:10 February 21, 2010 by ingka
totally support Nemesis ... also here in south Kronoberg the workforce is doing its utmost to keep the roads as clear as possible ... even the bycycle paths in my village are clean in a couple of hours after sunrise ... it's impressing after 2 months of hard work the fight still goes on ... if this work morale would display itselves in other industries, Sweden would be serious competition for the G7 powers (not during Fika time though)
22:07 February 21, 2010 by jcupak
I live in New England, USA, where we get "Nor'Easters" which come in from the ocean and swirl around for days dumping snow. Natives and long-time residents know they have to have snow tires - sometimes with chains - to get around in the winter. We do have some commuter railways, but most of our travel is by highway, including buses. I'm surprised that Sweden is having a bad winter, and would have thought everyone would have skis strapped to their roof - just in case.
03:12 February 22, 2010 by Davey-jo
We actually had some snow today, but it all melted by tea-time so no great shocks here in Hull. You seem to be having loads of the white stuff, it's killing rabbits and making sub-editors think of more ridiculous headlines but I'm sure it's nothing that you can't deal with.
04:58 February 22, 2010 by för30årseden
When will you fools realize: Global Warming is Progress? It does not have to be like this. Sweden could be better.
08:04 February 22, 2010 by Sunshine09
It's called Global Climate Change, not Global Warming i.e. extremes in either direction, in case you didn't notice...... And för30årseden, Sweden IS doing a darn good job keeping things running.
08:46 February 22, 2010 by karex
I think that several decades ago Sweden was better equipped to deal with extreme weather in winter. I wasn't around at the time but my husband and his family tell me stories. Anyone remember seeing pics of the good old-fashioned trains with snow/animal blades attached to the front? Why can't we do this in this day and age and get the trains to clear the tracks instead of getting loads of poor workers out on this arctic weather to clean them? I'm sure the trans-siberian railways doesn't stop working when it's winter. Granted the trains would have to move much slower, but they could still move. But wait, they can't because the way they are built nowadays palces too many critical components exposed to the weather which freeze over. I'm glad they don't build planes this way...

Swedish authorities have become too complacent after some years of mild winters. When I was a kid I faced a couple of winters in the US midwest that would put this one to shame: -40C/F (it's the same at this temp), and snow drifts almost up tp the roof of the house. We had to crawl out a window to go to the other side and dig out the front door. Things got difficult, but not the chaos it has caused here.
09:33 February 22, 2010 by dammen
I also think that Sweden is holding up well to the weather situation. There has been consistent lack of investment in train traffic and roads and for teh government to start attacking Barnverket for their lack of maintainace of the rail network is totally unjust given they have already stated they are not going to invest anymore money in trains but put it into roads instead - so much for the environmental policies.

Just keep up the good work those who are out cleaing up so those of us who live in small places can get to work
10:36 February 22, 2010 by miss79
gee..thinking how sweden wants to be a capitalist country..hmmm
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