Winter rail delays cost 3 billion kronor

Three billion kronor ($384.72 million): that was the cost to Sweden of rail delays caused by this winter's severe weather, according to a new report.

Winter rail delays cost 3 billion kronor

The study by Sweden’s Transport Administration (Trafikverket) looked at why traffic was delayed, what the delays cost and asked what could be done to reduce the cost to business and society of future harsh winters.

The snowy and cold winter of 2009 and 2010 had serious consequences for the Rail Administration (Bankverket), train operators and society in particular. The extreme cold, combined with heavy snowfall, resulted in very poor conditions for rail traffic.

“The weather was unusual, but not an isolated phenomenon,” Thomas Andersson, press secretary for Trafikverket, said in a statement.

The total number of hours trains were delayed this winter was 83,000, of which slightly more than two-thirds affected freight traffic and the remainder affected passenger services. These delays were twice as many as in a normal winter.

If measures corresponding to an initial investment of 410 million to 450 million kronor were implemented, half of the delays would be avoided, the report said.

Overall, about half of the rail delays in Sweden are said to be caused by factors that may affect Trafikverket and the other half fall under the control train operators. A strict line between causal factors and responsibility is difficult to draw as many causes are linked.

“It is clear that cooperation between Trafikverket, contractors and train operators is needed to limit the problems caused both by winter conditions and other causes of delays,” said Andersson.

According to Trafikverket, deficiencies in infrastructure, interfacing with contractors, internal management and processes and information to passengers, operators and society contributed to the situation.

The largest positive net effect would come in the form of alternative train timetables and plans for adapting operations at reduced capacity because of disruptions, as well as improved operational management nationwide.

Although technology has the potential to solve some of the problems, because of the scope of the problems and the geographical spread, the cost of implementing technology solutions is often too high for them to be justified from an economic perspective.

“One cannot assume that the past winter’s weather was an isolated event and it is important that Trafikverket take the necessary steps to further reduce the effects of a severe winter,” said Andersson.

“Since Trafikverket could not implement these measures in a vacuum, it is also important that operators, contractors and other parties involved participate and contribute as needed.”

Trafikverket pledged to continue to do everything within reason to maintain rail infrastructure during bad weather, then deal with reduced capacity during interruptions in the most optimal way possible and simultaneously inform the public and third parties as quickly and accurately as possible on how the disruption could not be avoided.

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The Local readers’ guide to making it through Sweden’s winter darkness

We have a long, dark winter ahead of us, but there's light in the darkness. The Local readers share their advice on coping with a Nordic winter, even in times of corona and travel restrictions.

The Local readers' guide to making it through Sweden's winter darkness
Lights and walks outside were two popular and free tips. Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT


Many suggested light, whether sunlight or candlelight, as important to cope with Sweden's darkness.

“Trying to go outside during daylight hours everyday. It's shocking how instantly uplifting it is.” – Maitri Dore, from India, living in Gothenburg

“I'm a foreigner and this is my second winter in Sweden. The darkness really affects my energy in winter so I bought smart light bulbs to adjust the light I need over the day. When the weather is bad, I set my room to a very white and bright colour. This way, I don't feel like going to sleep at 5pm!” –Thomas, from France, living in Stockholm

“I put up more Christmas lights this year than last year and I've noticed that many of my neighbours have done the same! It makes me smile every time I drive into my neighbourhood and see our trees, front porches and windows filled with twinkling lights and advent stars.” – Emilie Blum, from the USA, living in Karlstad

“I try to keep myself warm all of the time. I keep brightening up my room with candles and electrical bulbs.” – Dyna, from Cambodia, living in Lund

Keep busy

Many of our readers said they turned to hobbies or little luxuries to fill the long evenings, including ceramics or photography courses online, indoor exercise visitors, cooking, planning their next trip for when travel is possible safely, crafts, reading, writing, gaming, and virtual activities with friends overseas.

Photo: Jonas Ekströmer/TT

Move your body

Maybe this is a good time to dust off that treadmill you have in the basement? Or try out online yoga and meditation sessions free of cost?

Readers suggested:

“Walks or gardening during weekday daytime, at least twice a day, even if for just 5-10 minutes. Weekend walks in the forest.” – Lejla Somun Krupalija, from Bosnia-Herzegovina, living in Stockholm

“Gym first thing in the morning to wake up fully, then a lunchtime walk to catch the daylight.” – Mike, from the USA, living in Stockholm

“Making sure to go outside at least once a day for a walk. This is really good to help you feel you have achieved something and the fresh air is energising.” –Rachel Stewart, from the UK, living in Stockholm

“It's a first for me, but because I don't go to the gym anymore, I tried a sports app. I have never been especially fit or a big sports fan, just trying to move a bit, as I spend my day sitting in front of a computer. It's only about 30 minutes per day, but I feel really more energised than last year! And I also try to keep going outside every sunny day, to enjoy the little light we have here in the North!” – Jade Bruxaux, from France, living in Umeå

File photo: Sören Andersson/TT

Finding ways to adapt

“Listening to music and listen to positive motivation videos, attitude of gratitude.” – Shwetha, from India, living in Gothenburg

“Try to stay positive and just enjoy the little things, winter is a great time to appreciate what you take for granted on a daily basis.” – Linus Schenell, Swedish, living in Stockholm

“This is the time when I usually go back home to India. To add to that, we don't really celebrate Christmas. But this year, I am embracing the situation and doing everything I can to feel the spirit, stay busy and beat the blues. I've started to decorate at home, put up lights, made glögg and even hung a mistletoe (which my partner is not really amused with!)” – Parul Ghosh, from India, living in Helsingborg

“Vitamin D tablets every morning; contact with friends and family by phone, Skype, Zoom, e-mail etc; reading; cooking; eating,” – John Nixon, British-Swedish, living in Gothenburg

“Walking to the beach to watch the sunrise and then again to see the sunset is my way of dealing with darkness. Along the Baltic shore, the sun rises and stays just above the horizon during the daylight hours. It moves from east to west horizontally as the daylight hours progress then dips back into the sea. Each day, even if it's cloudy, you can usually see the sun below the cloud layer. There are only a few visitors at the beach, so I'm isolated. It keeps me in good spirits. I follow the routine with some regularity. It brings me closer to nature and reminds me of all those folks in mainland Europe, just south of me who are undergoing difficulties this year.” – William Seitz, from the USA, living in Hanö Bay