Government may revive Stockholm rail link project

The government has been reprimanded by its own investigator for its proposal to scupper the Citybanan commuter rail project.

Upon coming into power the new centre-right government announced that plans for a 6 km long railway tunnel would instead be replaced by a third overground commuter rail track.

But when the government tasked Hans Rode with looking into the option of a third track they could scarcely have predicted that his findings would represent such a setback.

“There are considerable advantages with Citybanan as opposed to a third track,” said Rode.

A third track is possible, Rode concluded, and it would cost considerably less than Citybanan (6.5 billion kronor rather than 15.9 billion kronor). But it would only resolve the commuter train situation in the greater Stockholm area.

“Citybanan may be able to create an expansive development in Mälardalen and Östergötland. A third track is a compact Stockholm solution,” said Rode.

Nor would it be possible to move the development of a third track forward. With planners starting again at square one, a third track would not be in operation until 2017-2020.

In addition, the new system’s full capacity would be exploited as soon as it came into use, while its construction would necessitate the removal of one lane of traffic from the city centre bridge Centralbron.

Citybanan on the other hand would become operational in 2017 and offer a capacity of 38 trains per hour, compared to today’s 24. But with further investment it would become feasible to increase the capacity to as many as 44 or 54 trains per hour.

Furthermore the construction of Citybanan would not affect buildings located on the islet of Riddarholmen.

Hans Rode estimates that Citybanan will cost 15.9 billion kronor. A total of 10.8 billion kronor has already been earmarked for the construction, which also includes additional stations.

In order to raise the additional 5.1 billion kronor required Rode suggests that the regions of Mälardalen and Östergötland should make a contribution.

To this end he has proposed that government investigator Carl Cederschiöld should negotiate a financing agreement with the counties and municipalities making up the two regions.

“It is not unreasonable that those who benefit most also join in and do their bit,” Cederschiöld told news agency TT.

He feels that the time has come for the government to decide whether it wants to invest in a long or a short-term solution to Stockholm’s traffic problems.

“The third track solves the commuter train situation. Full stop,” said Cederschiöld.

Infrastructure minister Åsa Torstensson did not wish to take a position with regard to the investigator’s suggestion. While expressing concern about Citybanan’s “galloping” costs, the minister also conceded that only Citybanan has the capacity to solve the entire region’s traffic problems, whereas a third track only offers an answer for the greater Stockholm area.

“That’s why I think the investigator’s suggestion of co-financing from municipalities and counties in Mälardalen and Östergötland is very interesting, and the government will attend to the investigation immediately,” said Torstensson.