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Traffic jams and cancellations: the latest on summer travel in Sweden

With travel chaos in Europe this summer, many Swedes are finding themselves choosing - or forced - to holiday once again at home: Here’s the latest on the summer travel bedlam, and a few tips to help you manage.

Traffic jams and cancellations: the latest on summer travel in Sweden
A traffic jam between Södertälje and Järna on Midsummer Eve this year. Photo: Magnus Andersson / TT

What’s the problem? 

After many employees quit or were furloughed during the pandemic, airports, airlines, and train companies are now frantically trying to rehire everyone from flight attendants and pilots to security and border control personnel, luggage handlers, and reservation and gate agents.  

Reasons for staff leaving include low pay, long hours, health risks due to Covid-19, and shorter (less enjoyable or relaxing) layovers for flight attendants and pilots. 

Staff shortages aren’t the only reason – another major disruption to summer travel, adding to the pandemonium is the lifting of coronavirus travel restrictions in April across Europe, which caused an unanticipated surge in demand to travel abroad.

Many positions are unlikely to be filled in time for the busiest weeks of the season, as hiring and training new employees, particularly pilots and airport security personnel, takes a great deal of time.

European air travel

Travellers from Sweden have been hit hard by the strike at SAS, the main Scandinavian airline. 

In a press release, SAS said their pilot’s strike would lead to approximately 50 percent of all SAS flights being cancelled and affect approximately 30,000 passengers per day.

The flights operated by SAS Link, SAS Connect, and SAS’s external partners are not affected by the strike, but according to data from the flight-tracking website FlightAware, more than 242 SAS flights – or 76 percent of those scheduled – had been cancelled as of Tuesday.

But SAS is not even the worst airline when it comes to cancellations.

A recent report by travel intelligence provider Mabrian Technologies reveals the top 10 airlines responsible for flight cancellations across Europe.

Easyjet tops the list, according to the survey, with 1,394 cancelled flights between July 1 and July 15. With 399 cancelled flights, Turkish Airlines is in the second rank, followed by Scandinavian Airlines (SAS), Wizz Air, and Vueling in fourth and fifth place, respectively.

Source: Mabrian

If you want to follow cancellation statistics and track your flights in real time, these three apps are helpful: 

Cancelled trains at Swedish state rail company SJ 

According to Swedish radio broadcaster SVT, unions were already warning of a summer staff shortage for SJ in the spring, but the company told them everything was under control. 

So far this summer, SJ has been forced to cancel an average of 30 departures per day due to staff shortages. 

Staff shortages have been compounded by poor planning from Trafikverket (Swedish Transport Administration), with heavy track work affecting train routes and timetables this summer. 

SJ states on its website that they try to send out information via SMS or e-mail as soon as a train is cancelled, with a link in which passengers have the opportunity to rebook or cancel trips free of charge.

Other major train operators: Vy, Snälltåget and Inlandsbanan, and MTRX and FlixTrain, which operate between Stockholm and Gothenburg, are not as tied up with staff shortages but are similarly affected by rail work.

Rail lines affected by track work

Nässjö – Hässleholm Line:

Gothenburg-Kalmar, Stockholm-Malmö-Copenhagen, Night train Gothenburg / Stockholm-Duved / Umeå, Night train Stockholm-Malmö, Night train Stockholm-Hamburg

Period: 9 – 10 July (night).

Impact: The trains will be cancelled and possibly replaced by other traffic, or go another way.

Gävle Line:

Linköping-Stockholm-Gävle, Stockholm-Sundsvall-Umeå, Stockholm-Östersund-Åre, Stockholm-Sundsvall-Östersund, Night train Gothenburg / Stockholm-Duved / Umeå

Period: 27 July (23:00) – 30 July (05 : 10), July 30 – August 1 (nights), August 1 (23:00) – August 5 (05:10), August 7 – 13, August 15 (23:10) – August 19 (05:10), August 22 (23:10) – August 26 (05:10)

Impact: The trains will be cancelled and possibly replaced by other traffic, or go another way.

Södertälje South – Katrineholm / Norrköping Line:

Stockholm-Gothenburg, Stockholm-Karlstad-Oslo, Night train Stockholm-Malmö, Night train Stockholm-Hamburg

Period: 14 – 29 August (nights).

Impact: The trains will be cancelled and possibly replaced by other traffic, or go another way.

Flemingsberg – Katrineholm Line: 

Stockholm-Gothenburg, Stockholm-Malmö-Copenhagen

Period: 22 – 26 August (nights).

Impact: The trains will be cancelled and possibly replaced by other traffic, or go another way.

For a comprehensive list please see SJ’s page showing planned rail works here.

Road works

The Swedish Transport Administration has warned of heavy queues and congestion this summer due to scores of road construction projects. About 46 major road works are planned, which will heavily affect traffic, leading to gridlocks and bottlenecking.

The organisation gets busy with construction in the summer because there is generally less traffic than during the rest of the year, and they are able to work more easily with concrete and asphalt in the period without cold, ice and snow.

In Sweden, there are approximately 10,000 km of state roads that must be maintained and improved – Many bridges and roads here were built between the 50s and 70s, now worse for wear, hence all the rebuilding and renovation work.. Additionally, road works are being carried out to remove stretches with heavy congestion, reduce the risk of accidents, and improve public transport.

The Swedish Transport Administration asks holidaymakers out on the road this summer to plan their driving in order to not stress when passing road construction, and keep updated by checking their website.

A map of selected summer road works:

Here are the road construction projects expected to have the most impact on holiday travel:

  • In Norr- and Västerbotten, the E4 north of Umeå to Gumboda there is a section being paved, and the existing E4 is being rebuilt into a meeting-free road.
  • In Västernorrland paving is take place between Gävle and Härnösand, mainly on the Enånger-Hudiksvall and Timrå-Härnösand sections.
  • Västmanland and Södermanland Between Eskilstuna and Västerås, road 56 is being rebuilt into a meeting-free country road between Kvicksund and Västjädra.
  • In the Stockholm area, several improvements are being made for public transport, along the E18 between Stocksund and Arninge, lanes are being widened. On Ekerövägen, a public transport lane is being built between Nockeby and Tappström in the direction of Ekerö.
  • Gothenburg is rapidly growing and therefore being rebuilt. Västlänken is building a railway tunnel with three central stations, Älvsborgsbron is being renovated and the Göta tunnel is being renovated in the city centre.
  • The largest impact on traffic flow is caused by blasting work in Kallebäcksmotet which stops traffic on E6 as well as stops and restrictions on access to road 40. Every weekday at 11.20 the traffic is closed for 10 minutes, so expect long queues. 
  • In Småland, the E4 past Ljungby is being rebuilt into a motorway. E4 past Jönköping will get an extra lane.

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Sweden sees continued train delays following weekend storms

Train travel is still disrupted in some parts of Sweden following the storms which passed over the country during the weekend.

Sweden sees continued train delays following weekend storms
In Töreboda, Western Götland, repair work is still ongoing after a roof blown away in the storms pulled down an overhead line, leading to delays of between 15 to 20 minutes on the Gothenburg to Stockholm line, as well as delaying local train lines in the area.
One of the three tracks on the route has been open since Sunday night.
“But one stretch of track is running on reduced speeds of 70 kilometres an hour to protect those working nearby,” said Emanuel Alvarez, press information officer at the Swedish Transport Administration.
All tracks are expected to be back in use early on Wednesday morning.