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'Sweden has worst railway maintenance in Europe': SJ CEO

Roger Choate · 6 Feb 2010, 09:41

Published: 06 Feb 2010 09:41 GMT+01:00

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The chairman of SJ, Ulf Adelsohn, has said that Sweden had the poorest railway maintenance network of all comparable systems in Europe.

More than 1,000 workers were clearing ice along railway tracks and switches in a network comprising 13,000 kilometres of tracks, the 20th largest in the world.

In the past few frigid weeks, maintenance and locomotive problems, including carriages and signaling systems, have caused a public uproar. Trains are often running erratically, and sometimes not at all.

The chairman of the state-owned system told the daily Dagens Nyheter that SJ has not received sufficient funding for maintenance over the years.

“A European study shows that Sweden had the worst maintenance record with railways of all comparable European countries,” said Ulf Adelsohn.

He said SJ told the government in 2005 that it would be wise to pump fresh investments into maintenance.

"We got a lot of criticism for proposing this,” said Adelsohn, a former leader of the centre-right Moderates.

Adelsohn was joined by SJ President Jans Forsberg in saying that the government must bear its share of responsibility for problems afflicting the system during a cold and snowy winter.

As an example, Forsberg said the high speed X2000 trains can accumulate up to three tons of clinging ice during present wintry circumstances. It takes 4-8 hours to de-ice.

“It also happens that technical equipment under train carriages can freeze, and sometimes this includes toilets and the water and electrical systems."

Story continues below…

He said he could not predict when the situation would change. Everything depended on the weather.

"The political system is responsible for determining how much will be invested (in maintenance), while we are responsible for investing in trains in such a way that they can tolerate this kind of weather in a more satisfactory manner,” Forsberg added.

SJ last week announced profits of 460 million kronor ($65 million) in 2009, with passenger traffic declining by 2 percent.

Roger Choate (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

10:20 February 6, 2010 by just a question
Can you immagine the amount of jobs that could be created in Sweden thanks to the snow? people clearing ice along railway tracks, clearing snow along roads and road sings, clearing ice everyday along sidewalks (that will allow old people to walk and don't be isolated)?

Only by hiring people clearing ice along the cities, the unemployement could be reduced.

Another thing that could reduce traffic accidents and unemployement could be to light the Swedish roads.
11:01 February 6, 2010 by bobalong
You have got to be kidding me!

Have they ever, ever used the railway system in England?

They stop if there are leaves on the track for heavens sake!

Over the past few weeks England has had "a little snow" compared to here. The fact that they are still running here all be it erratically is something to be proud of. In the UK the whole road and rail network were virtually closed down for 3 days due to the fact they had 3 inches of snow over night! Here that is merely a light dusting!
11:29 February 6, 2010 by Twiceshy
I don't know if it's the worst, what I do know is that this past few weeks it has been crap indeed.

Also, signal problems have been rampant for the past two years at least... I lost count of the times trains got stopped or cancelled due to signal problems.

So now, I'm driving. My girlfriend doesn't drive so she takes the train to work, these past few weeks make her want to get a driving license.
12:08 February 6, 2010 by Nemesis
This article is blatant lies.

The article is a complete fabrication.

The rail system in Eire of which there is very little, is not properly maintained. Sverige's railway system is light years better maintained that that in Eire.

The rail system in the United Kingdom is also not properly maintained. Sverige's railway system is light years better maintained that that in the United Kingdom.

The railway system in Sverige is light years ahead of the United Kingdom and Eire.

However I do agree with further investment.

More local Tågs would be very good in all areas of Sverige, prefereably covering longer distances.

An example would be the Tåg from malmö to Höör. They should change that to Hassleholm as the final destination so as to connect with other Tåg networks and have them running 24 hours so as to allow more people to work in Copenhagen.

Reopening the railways lines in eastern Småland to areas such as Öskarshamn would also help in opening up that area to inward investment.

However Sverige does have a very good railway system. The author of the article needs to be taken to task for such blatant anti-Sverige lying.
12:24 February 6, 2010 by Mina08
use the people who are claiming Akassa or unemployment benefit on a part time basis to help with the work....
12:52 February 6, 2010 by donaswe
The worst maintenance in Europe????!?!?!?!?!?!...What do you mean for you "Europe"?...If you for "Europe" intend "Scandinavia", then maybe you could have the wors railway maintenance. But if you intend the real meaning of Europe, then come to Italy!....Or go to Greece!....Swedes are accustomed too well!
13:00 February 6, 2010 by Twiceshy
Nemesis I disagree when you say that the system is "very good".

I commuted for around two years using the Swedish railway system and I certainly don't think it's very good. 1 out of 5-10 times (depending on the months) I was delayed between 30 to 60 minutes... on more rare occasions, more than that.

10-20% failure rate is not what I call a "very good" system.
13:08 February 6, 2010 by morchad

Read the article first...it says "comparable" systems in Europe.

Ireland (and it's not Éire - its been called the Republic of Ireland not Éire since 1949 - Have you ever heard an Irish person say "I come from Éire" I don't think so. Éire is only used when speaking the actual Irish language) has a very small network and some lines still have wooden sleepers, it's not a comparable example. Apples & Oranges mate
13:13 February 6, 2010 by Glempa
Yes, the railways have been bad recently, but I don't think worse in Europe.

I got home 3 and 1/2 hours late on Friday night a week ago (in Sweden), and yesterday worked at home to avoid the same problem. However, the UK has had big, big problems with railways with the Railtrack being privatised and then nationalised again because they did such a poor job. Several years ago we were traveling from Paris to London on the Eurostar and were traveling at over 300 km/hr on the French side and 50 km/hr on the UK side due an emergency national speed limit be imposed due to a couple of train crashes. A few years ago my travelled from Paris to London in 3 hours (after they had part-opened a new high speed railway), but then another 3 hours travelling the last 100km to our home north of London due to train problems and having to switch to buses.

Believe me, Sweden can do better but they are not the worst.
13:51 February 6, 2010 by just a question
Swedish trains are worst in:

-prices (too expensive)

-cleanliness (how about hire people to clean the public transports, trains, trams, etc)

-trains are usually old.
14:46 February 6, 2010 by hjoian
complete bollox. Any idea how many people have been killed in train wrecks in the UK in the last 15 years?

Investment never hurts,but its always been a better system than most in EurOPE.
16:08 February 6, 2010 by krrodman
Read closely guys(and girls), the person leveling the criticism at the rail system is not some crackpot journalist, but the Chairman of SJ. While I am sure he is trying to deflect some criticism away from SJ for the problems of the past few weeks, I would listen very closely to a manager who says that the railroad is underfunded and poorly maintained. If correct, it is only a matter of time before the railroad deteriorates further.
16:32 February 6, 2010 by Pont-y-garreg
Quite right, krrodman.

The guy was not actually saying Sweden has the worst trains, or the worst service, he was saying Sweden's railways had the worst MAINTENANCE record. The negative effects of poor maintenance build up over a number of years. He is making an argument for more money. That's his job.

Those comparing the rail system in Sweden with the one in "England" ( I trust you include Scotland and Wales) are being unhelpful. The population density in the UK is much higher and rail traffic is is almost at saturation point. The system is running at almost full capacity.
16:46 February 6, 2010 by peropaco
I don't know about maintanance being the worst; though they could use a little help in communicating when a train is delayed or cancelled. In this area they fail big time.
17:24 February 6, 2010 by barnickle
Take look at the uk railways. My experience of uk railways over the past couple years in the southwest is 80% of weekend journeys late, 40% of weekend services replaced with buses ( remember bus tickets are cheaper than a train ticket so when you get a 'bus replacement', this means you are getting ripped off ) due to line maintenance.
17:27 February 6, 2010 by Kaethar
This guy is looking for more funding... of course he'll be biased.
17:31 February 6, 2010 by sparc
What makes you all think that UK's rail system is COMPARABLE to Swedens? Apparently you all agree that it is not. The guy mentions three times that he is comparing only to specific countries. Having used several systems in Europe, I can tell you that this group is fairly small and does not include the UK, nor south Europe, nor eastern Europe either.
19:13 February 6, 2010 by moaca
Considering the size of Sweden, it would be a difficult task to ensure all trains run on time everywhere. May I just point out that even for Swedish standards this winter has hit a record in snow volume and the siberian cold doesnt help either.

Logistically it would be impossible to put people all over the country to keep the tracks cleared, not to mention the danger as well. The modern trains are rather quiete (not as noisy as diesel locomotives) and with all that snow it might be to late to hear them coming. I dont think blaming the current performance of the trains in Sweden is because of bad maintenance. It is due to these severe weather conditions, that even for SJ is beyond their capacity. Yes it is inconvenient, but not an every day occurance. SJ is not rich and if they have to invest in more staff trying to clear the tracks that would soon reflect in ticket prices.

Its a very tough winter this year and the whole of Europe has been affected, not just Sweden!
20:27 February 6, 2010 by KingArthur
Railway system in the Netherlands is MUCH worse. Specially bec. they think of profit before anything else..
20:56 February 6, 2010 by Buccaneer
Well, I never looked forward to the day when I had to agree with the likes of Kaether. Howevere, I strongly disagree with the European study that says Sweden has the worst maintenance record with railways of all comparable European countries.

I could say alot about Sweden, but I could not say anything bad about the Swedish transorpt system in general.

I kind of agree with the idea that there is a potential to put alot of people to work in sj and reduce the unemployment
21:19 February 6, 2010 by just a question
Someone mentioned South European trains. Sorry, but they are cheaper, cleaner and more punctual than Swedish trains.
22:35 February 6, 2010 by krrodman
A few thoughts:

While Adelsohn may very well be looking for more money, he has now publicly criticized HIS employer, the government of Sweden. I do not know how that will be received in Sweden, but in the USA he might expect a barrage of criticism from the government itself indicating that Adelsohn is not a competent to perform the task at hand. As we say in the States, payback is a b*tch.

I chuckle at the idea of reducing unemployment by hiring more workers for SJ. As the article notes, SJ made very little money last year, so there is very little money in the bank to hire more people. Are you suggesting that ticket prices should go up, or perhaps the tax rate should go up so that the government will have more funds to hire government employees?
00:49 February 7, 2010 by Davey-jo
Seems to be a little bunfight going on over who has got the worst rail system. I think it is obvious that rail systems through out europe, if not the world, are under funded and somewhat neglected. This is what happens when you let General Motors and Ford and so on run things.

Anyhow, Sweden does have such nice coloured trains ;)
06:43 February 7, 2010 by henry.bn
My general impression of the Swedish railways is good but as for maintenance, they certainly seem to grow a good crop of weeds on the tracks in the summer and do nothing about getting rid of them. Weeds on the track are not harmless and cause damage.

They also seem to go in for bonkers pricing systems and are short of stock on some routes. Also bonkers are the double-deck trains just two or three cars long. And bonkers too is the amount of electrified line with very little traffic on it. Electrification is for busy lines with at least ten trains an hour, not ten trains a day. One wonders why they ever put up the wire. When the equipment wears out, one hopes they will have the sense not to replace it but will keep the railway open with other traction.
08:04 February 7, 2010 by entry
"“A European study shows that Sweden had the worst maintenance record with railways of all comparable European countries,” said Ulf Adelsohn."

What study? Where is it? Has anyone found this study yet? I would like to read it?

My knee-jerk reaction is wow, if Sweden has the worst railway maintenance record in all of Europe the state of European Railways is such that railway disasters are most improbable.

If anyone figures out which report Ulf Adelsohn is referring please post a link.
08:48 February 7, 2010 by Nemesis
@ entry,

If you get a copy of that report, please email it to me or send me the link.

I have a feeling that what has happened here is the usual reliance on the the google translator going badly wrong.

The facts as reported in the article on the local, do not add up.

@ henry.bn

The double deck train carriage was invented in Birmingham in the UK, but never utilised in the UK, due to the usual good invention and short sightedness of planners, politicians and managers. In Paris they are an absolute must for moving large numbers of people around. They increase the effficiency of moving people about greatly.

Your rant appears to be a rant for the sake of a rant.

@ Twiceshy

There is some localised problems, but in general the Swedish network is very good.

@ morchad

If you have a problem with Gaelic, that is your problem, not mine. I think Irish Gaelic, Welsh, Bretton, Ulster-Scots, Scottish and other languages should be kept alive. Thankfully the European Union is now funding a lot of projects to keep them alive.

Regarding the Irish network, if you knew anything about Ireland you would know that until the end of the 50's, Ireland had more railaway lines than Sweden has today. It was all sold to India, Japan and China, while being decalred by the politicians and church as a great social leap forward. It left entire communities stranded as cars were rare and there is still not enough bus's to reconnect the communities. That single act destroyed any chance of economic growth for decades and allowed the church and politicians to ensure it festered, until the mid 80's when it was eventually exposed as to what they were really doing.

Those wooden sleepers you are referring to are original Oak sleepers that are at least 80 years old and in some cases up to 140 years old. A lot of those oak beams are still in circulation as they are the best of timber.
09:50 February 7, 2010 by square
Once again Nemesis is getting worked up and going on with the usual dribble, i'm sure you know the full maintenance plan and performance of the countries you mention... The chairman of SJ has reported this so expect he may know a thing or two about the system needs, so no point accusing the journo of fabrication. If anything this should be a good thing.
10:23 February 7, 2010 by Newyork-Växjö
They make millions and they do not spend this money to create more jobs.

One of the reasons why economy goes down is that they collect money in banks. nobody hires someone to do the job for them at home,office, indoor or outdoor and in Sweden one person is doing the work of 4 persons . they dont put the money in circulation. SJ needs more stuff at least in winter time.
11:28 February 7, 2010 by RogerChoate
I think what may make my little article interesting is the fact that the Chairman of SJ has fired a political broadside - as some readers have noted
12:44 February 7, 2010 by Rick Methven
Its Election Year!

"He said SJ told the ( Then Social Democrat ) government in 2005 that it would be wise to pump fresh investments into maintenance.

"We got a lot of criticism for proposing this," said Adelsohn, a former leader of the centre-right Moderates

So we have the Chairman of SJ who is a Moderate party guy who most probably got his job from being a party hack.

All he is trying to do is to conjure up enough statistics to put any problems of under investment on the previous government to try and get the current mob re-elected.

Ignore it
23:42 February 7, 2010 by Thijs
The troubles are probably not as bad as we had in the Netherlands this winter...
23:48 February 7, 2010 by Beavis
THis is most obviosly due to the fact that competition on routes is due to be introduced and Adelsohn wishes to change, back to Social Democrats where there wont be any.

What is wrong with SL and SE is that we have idiots like Adelsohn who are out of touch with reality. I watched a recent TV debate with him where a commuter asked, why are your prices so high? His answer was "if you book in time you can get a good deal"

Seriously for a family of 4 it is much cheaper to drive or to fly.

I bought tickets "in time" like the muppet said from Stockholm to Ludvika 340kr ONE way for ONE person. I paid less to fly from Stockholm to London!!

The reason SL has no maintenance money is that do not know what to charge for thie train journeys.

Swedish rail may not be the most ineffecient or porly maintained railways in Europe. But their management is the most overpaid, useless management.

Its a simple solution, adjust your prices into real world competitive pricing, have family discounts (good ones, not 2% reducions!) then MORE people will travel by rail and there will be more money to maintain the railway.
11:10 February 8, 2010 by izbz
They can't even clear the snow in the city how the heck can they maintain the railways and the tracks..... Excuses.., no place to dump the snow, Many places in the city, snow were just push to the side of the roads and walkways. When the snow melts, it turn to ice very quickly. so it become slippery. Heard that they are not allow to dump snow into the sea next year, more excuses we'll hear next year.

They most proabaly spend more money on fixing broken bones and injuries this year....talking about creating more jobs...definately more jobs are created in the hospitals but no one is employ.....
18:22 February 21, 2010 by dobermann
"It also happens that technical equipment under train carriages can freeze, and sometimes this includes toilets and the water and electrical systems."

Come on, it is like a joke!! People have created spaceships, hadron colliders, but they don´t know how to solve such problems ...
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