Sweden in billion kronor railway revamp bid

Sweden in billion kronor railway revamp bid
Swedish ministers at a press conference on Tuesday. Photo: Jessica Gow/TT
The Swedish government announced plans on Tuesday for a billion kronor railway revamp. Ministers want to invest 620 million kronor ($72m) in 2015 and thereafter 1.24 billion a year until 2018 to put an end to delays and train cancellations which have plagued Swedish rail travellers in recent years.

“The idea is to present a more reliable rail network in the near future,” Finance Minister Magdalena Andersson told reporters on Tuesday.

The investment proposal is included in the government's coming spring budget and was presented by Andersson alongside Prime Minister Stefan Löfven, Minister for Climate and the Environment Åsa Romson and Education Minister Gustav Fridolin at a press conference in Stockholm.

Sweden's ruling centre-left Social Democrat-Green Party coalition government has previously said that there is a need for the state to finance increased maintenance of Sweden's railways. Fridolin told reporters on Tuesday that train delays cost around five billion every year.

“We have all stood on a platform waiting for trains that haven't showed up. It causes great frustration,” he said.

The announcement came as 15 trains were held up at Stockholm Central Station at around noon after an electric wire was torn down near the Årstaberg commuter train station.

And tens of thousands of Swedes were hit by delays as the Swedish Transportation Authority (Trafikverket) carried out rail maintenance in and around Stockholm over the Easter holidays.

Jonas Westlund of the Transportation Authority told Swedish Radio ahead of the work that it was necessary to "take better care of the traffic needed" in the Swedish capital.

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The government's new bid forms part of Sweden's green policy to decrease the transport industry's environmental footprint, which is responsible for around a third of all emissions.

“If the railway does not work, we will have more road transport instead, which is not good,” said Löfven.

The government is set to present their spring budget by April 15th. Last autumn's budget proposal, which sparked a government crisis when it was voted down by parliament, called for a five-billion investment to revamp the Swedish railway network by 2018.

A spokeswoman for Sweden's largest opposition party in the right-wing Alliance, the Moderates, welcomed Tuesday's announcement.

"It is good that the government continues the rail investment initiated by the Alliance government," Jessica Rosencranz told news wire TT.

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