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Volcano forces early end to Swedish rail monopoly

TT/AFP/The Local · 22 Apr 2010, 17:31

Published: 22 Apr 2010 14:29 GMT+02:00
Updated: 22 Apr 2010 17:31 GMT+02:00

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The move is intended to boost capacity by encouraging more rail operators to ply the routes which were due to opened up to market competition in the autumn.

"It is important that all means of transport are optimised and we have therefore taken the decision to allow more rail operators to use the network. The decision is valid from today (Thursday)," said infrastructure minister Åsa Torstensson in a government statement.

The Swedish government had announced in March last year it would end the state railway company's monopoly on passenger traffic on October 1, 2010.

"The decision covers the time from now until the new law is passed in the autumn. The two decisions are separate from each other but in practice this is a permanent measure as it will cover the entire interim period," said Henrik Hansson, a spokesperson for the infrastructure minister told The Local on Thursday.

Torstensson also referred to an ongoing "close dialogue" between the government and the aviation sector to find measures with which to offer support. According to the minister, the government is active in the EU process to develop guidelines for how member states can establish support mechanisms.

Story continues below…

The government is prepared to review charges levied on airlines once traffic has returned to regular levels.

SJ has been unable to meet the extra demand caused by the flight chaos as much of its rolling stock has been undergoing service in April as a result of damage caused by the heavy snow falls during the winter.

TT/AFP/The Local (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

14:59 April 22, 2010 by Kevm
So that's it then. The Swedish railway system is now going to be fragmented like the British one. RAIL PRIVATISATION DOES NOT WORK!
15:42 April 22, 2010 by uunbeliever
Don't say that too loud or some American will come along and start ranting anout the "commie" Obama and socialism. There was a great man, Tommy Douglas, who said no one wins when profits become the goal. He was referring to the Canadian medical system but it fits here as well.

I will expect higher costs for us train users, worse service and less innovation.
15:44 April 22, 2010 by Nemesis
We went through this in the UK.

If you want to destroy your railway network, this is the perfect way to go about it.
15:50 April 22, 2010 by BCR
I don't believe that having a monopoly helps... but switching it from a monopoly to an oligopoly isn't going to improve things either. All this will do is make a few Swedish entrepreneurs filthy rich.

The problem is SJ's lack of price competitiveness with the airlines or other means of transportation. Given that SJ has been subsidised by the public purse, surely their ticket prices should cover their operating costs, investment schedule and infrastructure maintenance costs? I am guessing that SJ use the same business model as systembolaget i.e. overcharge and plow all the extra revenue into the bottomless pit that is the Swedish state in order to fund all the unnecessary garbage in this country - such as the Swedish royal family, 10 000 workers at Skatteverket, etc...
16:07 April 22, 2010 by Kevin Harris
Britain's railways were privatised by the last Conservative government, Deliberately so, in a way that made it impossible for a future government to nationalise it again.

What with an election coming up and everything, is there anybody out there who thinks this wasn't a disaster for public transport in Britain?
16:17 April 22, 2010 by Glempa
I agree with Nemesis & kevm. The UK railway system was privatised, and we saw profits put before service and SAFETY! After a coupler of crashes due to poor maintenance of the railway tracks, the government to re-nationalise Railtrack. Network Southwest was bought by a group of businessmen who promptly laid off over 10% of the workforce to 'cut costs' (increase profits) then sold the network at a huge profit, thanks to low price they got from government in first place ( which was done to encourage private enterprise). The south-west was left with a rail network where all the trains ran left due to not having enough staff.

And there are many more examples of this where public utilities have been privatised
16:24 April 22, 2010 by summo
bcr, you think SJ over charge and use the money else where, SJ is a bargain compared to the private trains of the UK, probably in the order of 2 or 3 times cheaper for similar length journeys. Sweden now needs to be ready to pay more for a poorer service!
16:36 April 22, 2010 by Movedtoswedenandgotstuck
I like the SJ system as it was. Only the XJ2000s were late regularly. Most of the other services were on time. Mostly... No-one wants to see a "No Frills" rail system where you have to pay for all the extra "services". Oh wait, that's what SJ has done anyway. One must remember a few key points - Public transport is only green if the public uses it, otherwise it just as large consumption of energy and resources. Monopolies work when they are highly regulated and well monitored. Oligopolies work when there is true competition and not just profiteering. So basically damned if you do, and damned if you don't. If you don't agree with what they are doing, buy a car and drive.
16:42 April 22, 2010 by BCR

Admittedly I rarely use public transport if I can avoid it, but if you have a look at the price of tickets between Göteborg and Stockholm on SJ... and compare that with a similar routes in the UK in terms of passenger traffic (I know the distances are not the same) such as Bournemouth to London... a return ticket is 50 quid off-peak and 85 quid during peak times. The prices for a return ticket from London to Birmingham is around 90 quid if you want include distance in the calculation.

Stockholm to Göteborg returning the next day bought on any given weekday will set you back around 2000 SEK.

Ok, the British system is a pile of cr@p and you are lucky if the train turns up on time or is unable to make it due to "leaves on the line." But it is almost half the price of the Swedish system...

I agree with you all in the idea that this will not lead to a reduction in prices, since the private companies entering this market will have built their business cases around being able to charge approximately the same for a ticket as SJ...

I will stick to my car, thank you very much.
20:12 April 22, 2010 by engagebrain
Privatisation reduced the UK rail network to chaos, only a supercomputer can work through all the fare permutations.

Privatisation has managed to squeeze profits out of passengers, so its works for some.

It also works for lawyers and managers, as every decision involves contracts, fine print and a desperate attempt to avoid responsibility.

Screwing up maintenance of the London Underground cost 500 million pounds in consultation etc - not penny of which came near the track

Getting a piece of litter off the track in a station can be a bureaucratic nightmare.

Privatisation of what are natural monopolies works, but not for passengers or tax payers.
08:23 April 23, 2010 by wabasha
SJ is great for longer trips booked many weeks in advance. like to Åre in the winter. but for everything else its has been a time and money waster... maybe some competition will help wake up SJ
09:07 April 23, 2010 by peropaco
Good riddance. X2000 and the whole SJ is an expensive joke. Lest hope Systembolaget follow suit. SJ should have taken management tips from TGV (SNCF)
16:48 April 23, 2010 by Nordland88
SJ worked fine for me when visiting Sweden thanks to the use of my Scanrail Pass. This will no doubt be another loss for tourism as with UK where cheap passes are not available for the trains. Diehard dogmatic neo liberalism at its worst, attempting to "privatise" a natural monopoly such as rail travel. No amount evidence will convince them otherwise, see all the complaints above about the UK rails. A great pity.
17:19 April 24, 2010 by groverpm
Wave goodbye to anything approaching a decent railway system and say hello to a high-priced self-serving, i.e. in just for the profit, service. Apparently the disaster that is the UK rail system has made no impression on any government in Europe.
18:29 April 24, 2010 by davedogman
How about you British whiners worry more about your own country than what is happening in Sweden? It's not like we would ever try to copy a UK scheme anyways. Your island nations is way too regulated and socialistic for us to mimic these days. Step into the 21st century.
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