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Stockholm transport staying afloat

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12:21 CEST+02:00
Travelling around Stockholm could be about to get a whole lot easier, if all the plans outlined in this week's news come to anything. There will, it appears, be new tunnels for commuter trains, a proper inner-city boat service, and the crumbling Slussen junction will be replaced by something gleaming and new.

Then the problem of how to pay for all this rears its ugly head.

It was the budget for the Slussen replacement that was under spotlight this week. Linking the Old Town to Södermalm, Slussen is a prominent Stockholm landmark, so the debate about how to replace it has been predictably long and fraught. And as with all large projects, the budget has started to spiral.

The original budget for the project was 2.2 billion crowns. But having spent the summer tinkering with the designs to accommodate various parties' suggestions, architect firm Nyrén now put the cost at 2.7 billion.

Councillors aren't happy. The Moderate Party's Sten Nordin thinks the line should have been drawn at 2 billion, and says the rebuilding plans were far too radical.

"I'm sceptical about plans for a new Slussen that involve completely removing the old one," he told Tuesday's Svenska Dagbladet.

Stockholm's transport budget is also being eaten away by people who don't pay their way on public transport. Anyone who has travelled on the Tunnelban, Stockholm's underground railway, has probably seen 'plankare' - fare dodgers who jump the barriers with apparent impunity.

And now transport chiefs have reported Sweden's first web site for fare dodgers to the police. The organisation behind the offending site, planka.nu, says that if you pay its membership fee - which is considerably less than the cost of a monthly travel pass - it will pay any fines you incur through fare-dodging.

Stockholm Transport (SL) says the audacious site encourages cheating - and frankly it's hard to disagree - and should be shut down. And SL isn't stopping with the site iteslf - it is also going after web and telephone operators.

"We want to force them to put a stop to this, just like they can be forced to close Nazi websites," said managing director Lennart Jangälv to Saturday's DN.

Nonetheless, things aren't going too badly for SL. The company, which is supposed to spend all its profits on improving service, is heading for a 58 million crown surplus. And Jangälv has plans for the cash: he wants to build a tunnel under the city for commuter trains.

But if you prefer to keep your head above water, there may be another option for you. SL is looking into launching water buses around central Stockholm. The boats, which would be powered by environmentally-friendly bio-gas, would link the centre with some of the city's newly-developed residential areas.

There only appears to be one problem.

"One boat costs 25-30 million crowns, and one line needs four boats to run smoothly," reported Saturday's DN. Maybe they don't need to build that tunnel after all.

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