Here’s how slow Sweden’s high-speed trains are getting

Here's how slow Sweden's high-speed trains are getting
A Swedish SJX2000 high speed train. Photo: Tomas Oneborg/SvD/TT
Think Sweden is all about efficiency and cutting edge technology? Think again, as it turns out the country's high-speed trains are about to get slower.

The three biggest Swedish cities are connected by snabbtåg (literally translated ‘fast trains’), meaning that in theory passengers should be able to get between Stockholm and Gothenburg in under three hours, and Stockholm and Malmö in just over four.

But as Swedish newspaper Sydsvenskan first reported on Wednesday, those times are about to get worse.

While Swedish state-owned rail operator SJ’s website shows that a high-speed journey between Stockholm and Malmö should take four hours and ten minutes in November, the same journey is scheduled to take four hours and 41 minutes in December – half an hour longer.

Similarly, SJ estimates that a high-speed journey between Gothenburg and Stockholm should take two hours and 55 minutes in November, but three hours and six minutes in December – a difference of just over 10 minutes.

The reason for the change is that high-speed trains on the lines are now being forced to drop down from their top speed of 200 km/h to 130 km/h on certain stretches because of poorly maintained tracks, as The Local reported last month.

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“Lowering speed is a step in entirely the wrong direction in a modern rail country. We are concerned as a commercial company that journey times are being lengthened. Every minute is important for our travellers,” SJ traffic coordination manager Tomas Weibull told Sydsvenskan.

“Journey times are now back to 1991 levels. Going back 25 years isn’t something SJ wishes for in a situation where we’re trying to beat flying from part of the market.”

Shorter routes like Malmö to Gothenburg and Helsingborg to Gothenburg will also see journey times lengthened.

The Swedish Transport Agency (Trafikverket) said that the changes will be temporary while extensive maintenance work is carried out on tracks.

In August, figures reported in newspaper Svenska Dagbladet (SvD) showed that Sweden’s high speed trains are the worst in Europe and among the worst internationally when it comes to punctuality.

Between 2008-15 only 66 percent of high-speed trains on the Stockholm-Gothenburg and Stockholm-Malmö routes arrived within five minutes of their intended times, with a lack of maintenance on tracks blamed for two thirds of the delays.