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Sweden to spend billions on railway improvements

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Sweden to spend billions on railway improvements
07:23 CEST+02:00
The Swedish government on Tuesday announced plans to set aside 5 billion kronor ($784 million) in new funding for infrastructure projects, with the bulk of the money devoted to improvements to the country's beleaguered rail system.

“We can't guarantee that there won't be any delays. But this is a major effort,” said Christian Democratic party head Göran Hägglund at a press conference held at a building site in Solna just north of Stockholm for the Citybana, a 6-kilometre-long railway tunnel currently under construction beneath parts of central Stockholm.

According to Liberal Party leader Jan Björkllund, the new spending will likely create 1,000 jobs.

He added that the 5 billion is new spending in addition to a one-time allocation of 800 million kronor authorised by the government last winter to help with railway maintenance projects.

“These are new investments which will improve what we already have,” said prime minister Fredrik Reinfeldt.

Of the 5 billion kronor, 3.6 billion will be spent on railways.

“This is right in line with what we wanted,” Gunnar Malm, head of the Swedish Transport Administration (Trafikverket), told the TT news agency.

Most of the money will go to pay for maintenance and repairs and will be distributed throughout the country.

Malm named several areas that needed attention, including new tracks, new switches, signals, and contact lines.

“We need to increase the robustness of the system and that will improve punctuality,” he said.

The remaining 1.4 billion kronor will be spend on Sweden's roads to improve maintenance, traffic safety, and traffic flow.

The announcement comes following advice from several economists and policymakers that Sweden should use spending on infrastructure projects to dampen the effects of an anticipated economic downturn.

Reinfeldt emphaised that the spending was a temporary, two-year measure which was motivated in part by economic considerations.

“This is sound economic policy,” he said.

Withh the government's proposal, spending on rail maintenance and repairs will reach 7 billion kronor in 2012 and 2013, while maintenance and repair spending for Sweden's roads will reach 11 billion for each year, according to a joint statement from the four centre-right governing Alliance parties.

The Green Party, however, criticised the government's plans as insufficient.

“It's paltry considering the problems facing the railways and tram systems,” Green Party spokesperson Åsa Romson said.

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