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Signalfel? The words that will help you navigate public transport in Sweden

Catherine Edwards
Catherine Edwards - [email protected]
Signalfel? The words that will help you navigate public transport in Sweden
This guide won't stop your train from being delayed, but it will help you navigate the travel chaos. Photo: Ingvar Karmhed/SvD/TT

Commuting to work is hardly the most joyful of experiences whatever the scenario, but when your train hasn't shown up and the tannoy announcements are in a language you don't speak, it can go from mild annoyance to major frustration.


Types of transport

Firstly, it's key to be aware that the types of public transport in Sweden vary from city to city, and may be different to what you're used to in your home country.

Most of Sweden's larger towns and cities are served by bus (buss, plural bussar) and train (tåg, plural tåg), while in Stockholm, Gothenburg and several other towns you also have the tram (spårvagn, plural spårvagnar).

But it doesn't stop there; Stockholm also has its underground network (tunnelbana) and in Stockholm and Gothenburg, your public transport card is also valid on the commuter ferry (pendelbåt). Just make sure you double-check which boat you're getting on, since there are other ferries in both cities which require a separate ticket.

The different kinds of train are also worth a mention. First, there's the pendeltåg (commuter train), a city service that stops at suburban stations. For longer distances, you can choose between long-distance trains (fjärrtåg) and regional trains (regionaltåg), with the latter serving mid-distance routes.


Common announcements

The phrase you'll hear some when you get on board one of Stockholm's underground trains is se upp for dörrarna, dörrarna stängs (watch out for the doors, the doors are closing), and at each stop you'll hear a variation of tänk på avståndet mellan vagn och plattform när du stiger av (be aware of the gap between the carriage and the platform when you get off).

A sign that usually causes some amusement to international travellers is when trains announce that you've almost arrived at the slutstation. This simply means "end station", so you need to get off (the train).


Delays and problems

Two phrases to look out for are inställda tåg/inställda avgångar (cancelled trains/cancelled departures) and förseningar (delays).

Some of the most common issues are a signal failure (signalfel), a problem with one of the carriages (vagnfel) such as a door not working, or the more mysteriously vague "technical failure" (tekniskt fel).

Listening closely could help you work out how serious the issue is: sometimes the announcement will specify whether the hold-up is due to an earlier signal failure (tidigare signalfel) or an ongoing, widespread issue (omfattande signalfel).

Another common cause of delays is simply overcrowding of the public transport (hög belastning), particularly if there's a popular event taking place that day.

Delays may also be due to a lack of staff on that particular day (personalbrist) or a traffic incident (trafikhändelse), a term which is used when there's an issue affecting one part of the transport system that has a knock-on effect on other aspects, such as a delayed bus that means a train needs to wait for it.

Sometimes the problems are caused by other passengers, whether deliberately or not. This includes trespassers on the track (obehöriga i spårområdet), a passenger falling ill and requiring the bus or train to stop while it waits for an ambulance (sjukdomsfall), or any behavioural issue such as threats or violence towards transport staff (ordningsproblem).

And when travelling by train in particular, listen out for weather-related disruptions. This could be solkurvor (literally "sun bends") which refers to strong sun causing metal on the tracks to expand and bend, which is risky for train travel.

Lövhalka or "leaf-related slippery conditions" is used to describe the phenomenon of wet leaves sticking to the tracks and making them slippery, forcing drivers to keep to lower speeds.

And rådande väderförhållanden ("prevailing weather conditions") is a term you won't often hear in conversational Swedish, but it's the go-to term to describe any kind of heat, rain, snow or ice that's causing delays or disruption to transport.

Article written in 2019 and updated in 2023.


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[email protected] 2020/06/09 17:02
pga (på grund av) - due to<br />byte till - change to

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