One million Swedes hit by winter bus chaos

Up to 1 million passengers were affected when bus services in Stockholm county shut down completely on Friday due to slippery conditions caused by heavy snowfall and strong winds.

One million Swedes hit by winter bus chaos

As a result, Storstockholms lokaltrafik (SL) Chairman Christer G. Wennerholm has threatened to fine the operator’s bus contractors, who lost 15 million kronor ($2.31 million) in revenue on Friday due to the cancellations.

“We believe that up to 1 million passengers were affected,” Thomas Silvander of SL’s press office said on Saturday.

The reason behind the cancellation of bus services on Friday remains unclear. Traffic returned to normal on Saturday morning with only minor disruptions.

Social Democrats on Stockholm’s county council have demanded that SL show its agreements with bus contractors.

“I think that it was a very drastic decision to suspend in large part all bus services. It feels like an extreme decision even if it was extreme weather,” Helene Hellmark Knutsson, opposition county council commissioner and second vice chairwoman of SL, said on Saturday.

“Stockholm cannot come grinding to a halt in this way. People cannot go to work and school. In addition, daily life was disrupted to the tune of about a million kronor in lost wages, costs that do not end up in SL’s account,” she added.

According to Wennerholm, SL is considering fines if it determines that contractors did not fulfill their agreements.

“Contractors who made the decision to suspend bus services may have been too cautious in their assessment. It remains to be seen,” he told Svenska Dagbladet (SvD) on Saturday.

According to Silvander, SL will discuss Friday’s bus chaos with all involved parties in the coming week.

“SL will go through this particular day with our contractors, with the road managers and all involved, to look at how we can prevent this from happening again in the future,” he said.

Separately, Sweden’s Infrastructure Minister Catharina Elmsäter-Svärd has come under heavy criticism for the transit disruptions from other members of the ruling Alliance coalition’s parties.

In addition to the bus cancellations, trains were also delayed as a result of the heavy snowfall over large parts of southern Sweden on Friday.

Following the numerous interruptions last winter due to unprecedented snowfall, the smaller parties in the Alliance have demanded more money for Sweden’s infrastructure.

“There must be more money in order to get around,” Centre Party leader Maud Olofsson told newspaper Dagens Industri on Friday.

She called for increased investments in maintenance and the expansion of rail service.

“There was a reason why I wanted a Centre Party member for the infrastructure minister post,” she said.

Christian Democrat Mats Odell, chairman of Sweden’s parliament’s, the Riksdag’s, industry committee, said that the situation is “completely unacceptable.”

“It is clear that there must be a thorough increase. It will require major investments in the future,” he said.

Liberal Party economic policy spokesman Carl B. Hamilton agreed and felt that the directors did not do their job.

“If it is true that Sweden has never invested so much in infrastructure as now, but it still does not work, is it not time to replace the heads?” he asked.

However, the amount of resources the government invests does not play a role in the weather, according to Elmsäter-Svärd.

“They could not cope with the weather. We cannot run at full capacity when the weather is so extreme,” she said.

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Floods as Swedish cities get two months of rain in 24 hours

Large areas of Sweden saw extreme levels of rain over the weekend, with the city of Linköping receiving more than 100mm of rain in 24 hours, twice as it usually receives in the whole of August. 

Floods as Swedish cities get two months of rain in 24 hours

According to Swedish weather forecaster SMHI, the Linköping-Malmslätt area received 96mm between Saturday night at 8am on Sunday morning. The area normally received between 60mm and 70mm in August as a whole. 

“There was such an absurd amount of rain that the data was at first rejected by our system,” Therese Fougman, a meteorologist at the forecaster, told Sweden’s TT newswire. “It is continuing to rain during the day, and it is lying in a band over Östergötland, Sörmland och further up towards Uppland, predicting there would be a further 40mm to 50mm in the next 12 hours. 

The downpours have led to flooding in several areas, and caused traffic problem with cars at risk of aquaplaning on roads such as the E18, which were covered in a thick layer of water. 

Lennart Ågren, who was the duty leader of rescue services in Östra Götaland, told TT on Sunday afternoon that rescuers had been called out to several floods in Linköping and Mantorp. 

“There were streets under water, and water was running into properties so we had to throw all our resources at it for several hours,” he said. 

In Jönköping, rescue services were called out to flooding at a school and in other places, while in Växjö, lightening hit close to the place where a student party was being held at the local university campus. 

In Linköping, rescue services told TT that they had been called out 30 times. “We’ve been stretched but have managed to handle it,” said Pedher Helmer, who was in charge of rescue services in Östergötland over the weekend. 

The heavy rain is expected to move to Blekinge, Skåne, Öland and Gotland over the coming days, with a risk for flooding.