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Israel rejects Gaza ship claims as ‘Bond-esque’

Israeli authorities have rejected claims of the Swedish Ship to Gaza movement that "foreign agents" were behind the damage to their boat, which was reported sabotaged on Monday.

Israel rejects Gaza ship claims as 'Bond-esque'

“It sounds like a ‘James Bond-esque’ insinuation, which is pretty funny, but has no bearing on reality,” said Ilana Stein of the Israeli ministry of foreign affairs to news agency TT.

The Swedish Ship to Gaza group reported on Monday that their ship Juliano had been sabotaged while berthed in Piraeus harbour in Greece.

“It is time for the international community to put their foot down and say: It’s enough!” said Swedish spokesperson Mattias Gardell in a statement at the time.

According to Mikael Löfgren, press coordinator of the organisation, the group didn’t know who was behind the attack in which hostile divers destroyed the propeller housing and severed the two propeller axles beneath the boat, but had their suspicions.

He told The Local that the only thing they could be sure of was that the perpetrators would be representing those who don’t want them to succeed in their mission.

And within the Norwegian organisation, who are co-owners of the damaged ship, they were thinking along the same lines.

“All we know is that Israel is doing everything in its power to slow us down,” said Norwegian spokesperson Torstein Dahle to Norwegian daily Dagbladet.

But according to Ilana Stein and Israel, the organisation has no evidence that proves the damage was an act sabotage or who may be behind the deed.

The flotilla is the second attempt by the Freedom Flotilla organisation after a previous journey to Gaza in May 2010 resulted in the intervention of armed Israeli forces, the death of nine activists and prompted extensive international condemnation of Israel.

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TRANSPORT

Train punctuality a matter of definition

The Swedish Transport Administration (Trafikverket) has claimed improved punctuality rates for Swedish trains - but it has also tripled the time for what counts as a delay, from five to 15 minutes.

Train punctuality a matter of definition

In 2012, 97 out of 100 regional and commuter train departures were on schedule, compared to 87 out of 100 in 2011, according to the Swedish Transport Administration.

But the main reason behind the improvement seems to be that the Transport Administration changed the definition of delayed journeys.

Previously, trains that arrived five or more minutes late were recorded as delayed. Now, a train can be up to 15 minutes late without being counted as late.

While the Transport Administration previously claimed that the time limit was stretched in order to bring the Swedish definition in line with European measurements, it now admits that it was the result of a deal it struck with the train industry.

The Sveriges Radio (SR) programme Kaliber found that 15 minutes is, in fact, not a standard measure for counting train delays in Europe. Reporters confronted the Transport Administration’s acting CEO Caroline Ottosson with their findings.

“About a year ago we and the train industry decided to report the number of trains delayed by 15 minutes,” admitted Ottosson.

“Sweden is a big country,” she explained. “Many trains travel long distances and so we have chosen 15 minutes.”

In January, the Transport Administration reported that “punctuality in train traffic improved somewhat last year. New figures show that 96.9 percent of departures were on schedule, an increase by a few tenths compared to 2011.”

And Sweden’s Minister of Infrastructure Catharina Elmsäter-Svärd told Kaliber that “Statistically speaking we now have a punctuality rate that puts us at the top in Europe.”

But while transport officials claim great success rates, Swedish travellers are not too impressed with train services.

In December 2012, a Swedish Quality Index (Svenskt Kvalitetsindex) survey showed that, out of all Swedish brands, rail operator SJ had the most dissatisfied customers.

Asked if the Transport Administration has tried to find out how travellers themselves would define delays, Ottosson said “that is a question we will address within the framework of our systematic efforts to improve punctuality”.

TT/The Local/nr Follow The Local on Twitter

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