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Good news for Sweden rail commuters after 'rough year'

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Good news for Sweden rail commuters after 'rough year'
File photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT
15:00 CET+01:00
Swedish rail operator SJ has announced an expanded timetable of train departures along the nation’s most popular rail stretches in a move it hopes will rebuild commuter confidence after a year plagued by traffic problems.
When the 2019 rail timetables take effect on Sunday, there will be more weekend departures between Stockholm and Gothenburg and more daily departures between Uppsala and Stockholm as well as between Stockholm and Copenhagen. 
 
“The biggest thing is that we are making efforts on the Uppsala to Stockholm route. Commuters have had a rough year. Now we are establishing additional departures as well as more seats on existing departures,” SJ spokesman Tobbe Lundell said. 
 
Lundell said that the expansions were necessary in part because of an increased interest in rail travel spurred by a new focus on the environmental impact of flying. 
 
“More people want to travel in a way that is environmentally smart. There has been an increase [in rail travel] over time but it is now expanding faster than before. We will be very busy this Christmas season, with significantly more travellers than in previous years,” he said. 
 
But there is also a downside to SJ’s expanded offerings, namely a shortage of both train cars and drivers. Lundell said the driver shortage is currently being addressed by employees working overtime but acknowledged that “it is a long-term concern”. 
 
SJ may have its work cut out for it in regaining commuters’ confidence after a rocky 2018. The summer heatwave caused numerous rail closures, but problems had set in even before temperatures rose. According to figures from the Swedish Transport Administration (Trafikverket), May was the worst month for punctual departures since the agency started collecting those stats in 2013. 
 
“We’ve had a strange year. It already began in the winter and then came the incredibly strange month of May, which was really bad, and then a miserable summer with fires and heat waves,” Lundell said. “We really need to strive to regain confidence and the new timetable changes are a step in that direction.”
 
Train operator MTR Express also said travel times on its service between Stockholm and Gothenburg would be decreased and that it would establish more stops in Alingsås and Skövde. 
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