Stockholm to Oslo train links ‘would save half a million plane journeys’

A faster train service between Stockholm and Oslo could save half a million journeys by plane, a joint study carried out by the Swedish Transport Agency and Norwegian Railway Directorate has found. 

Pictured is a train in Oslo.
A train comes into Oslo Central Station. Photo: Magnus Engo/Unsplash

A joint study between the Transport Agency and Norwegian Railway Directorate found that building the so called “Gränsbanen” or border railway, with new tracks linking either Lillestrøm or Ski in Norway with the Swedish town of Arvika, would cut more than an hour off the current 5 hour 13 minute journey between Stockholm and Oslo. 

As a result, the two agencies predict that more than half a million of those who fly between the two capitals every year would instead take the train, dramatically reducing carbon emissions. 

Despite this, the joint study found building the Gränsbanen alone would not provide sufficient benefits to balance out the cost — of between 20 and 45 billion Norwegian kroner (21-48bn Swedish kronor) for Lillestrøm-Arvika and 25 to 60 billion kroner (27-64bn SEK) for Ski-Arvika. 

“The cost-benefit ratio comes to -9.5bn Norwegian kroner,” Bente Bukholm, project leader for the study at the Norwegian Railway Directorate, told Sweden’s TT newswire. “But it’s pretty common that you end up with a negative cost-benefit ratio for society with big railway projects, because they are so expensive to build.

Jonas Karlsson, the chief executive of the local government-owned lobbying company Oslo-Stockholm 2.55, told The Local that the agencies themselves in their report pointed out that the elements that went into the cost-benefit ratio were far from representative, with only the Gränsbanen taken into account. 

Oslo-Stockholm 2.55 is joint-owned by three Swedish regions — Värmland, Västmanland and Örebro — and three city governments Karlstad, Västerås, and Örebro. It is pushing to bring the journey time to below three hours. 

“We have made a cost benefit analysis for the project which is positive,” Karlsson said. “The big difference is that we have looked into the benefits if you establish [a link] all the way between Stockholm and Oslo: if you make a double track on Värmlandsbanan and if you make Nobelbanan.” 

It would take building the Nobelbanan, a new track linking Örebro and Kristinehamn, to bring the journey down under three hours, something Karlsson reckons is reasonable, seeing as the two capitals are only just over 400km away from one another as the crow flies. 

They believe that such a link could replace a million air journeys a year, double as many as predicted in last week’s joint Swedish-Norwegian report. 

“The huge amount of travel that goes on between Stockholm and Oslo is mainly done by air,” he said. “Before Covid there were 22 flights a day in each direction. It was the 20th biggest air connection in the world if you look at the number of flights, and air connection had a market share of 88 percent.” 

He said that the distance was sufficiently short that there is no need for a high-speed rail link able to take trains at more than 250 km/h. Normal express trains would be able to do it in under three hours. 

He pointed that the total cost of about 65 billion kronor for all the new connections, while significant, was much less than the 325 billion kronor required for new high speed rail links proposed between Stockholm and Gothenburg and Malmö. 

Also, because it would use existing train lines, the Stockholm-Oslo link would also benefit the regions along the way and allow regional transport to be improved.

Despite the conclusion that the cost-benefit ratio was negative, Karlsson said that the joint report, as well as support from many prominent Moderate MPs, was “very positive”: 

“It said that they recommend that the governments in Sweden and Norway continue their investigation into this project, and get into traditional planning for for this, so I’m very happy for that,” he said. “I think there is a good opportunity right now.”

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Copenhagen moves towards new M5 Metro line with potential Malmö station

A new Copenhagen Metro line, M5, could further expand the Danish capital’s underground rail and eventually include an international link to Swedish city Malmö.

Copenhagen moves towards new M5 Metro line with potential Malmö station

A majority of politicians in Copenhagen back plans for an expanded new M5 Metro line that would extend the reach of the underground rail service in the city, the Copenhagen Municipality finance committee said in a press statement.

The city has agreed to move forward with future extension of the Metro to several new parts of Copenhagen, it said in the statement.

Future extension of the new M5 line could eventually see it reach Swedish city Malmö.

Copenhagen’s city council is working on a plan to build a Metro connection to Refshaleøen, a former docks to the south of the city centre, and then to Lynetteholm, a major construction project which is already underway to create a giant artificial island.

Lynetteholm, a brand new island, is being built to protect Copenhagen’s harbour waters from rising sea levels while also providing homes for 35,000 people.

READ ALSO: Party demands new environmental scrutiny of Copenhagen artificial island project

Two potential new Metro lines have been in public hearing: one which connects Copenhagen Central Station to Lynetteholm via Amagerbrogade and Refshaleøen; and one from Østerport station in the east of the city to the same destination.

The parties behind the agreement to develop on the Metro have settled on the former option, which will have 10 stations including a stop at Østerport.

“Copenhagen must have a lot more Metro to take the strain from public transport and connect the city in a green, sustainable and social way,” Copenhagen city mayor Sophie Hæstorp Andersen said in the statement.

“That’s why I’m pleased that a majority at City Hall has decided to move forwards with a new M5 line that will be finished in 2035 and ensure a Metro to Refshaleøen and Lynetteholm,” she said.

The municipality’s finance committee is scheduled to meet later this month. This is to finalise decisions over the M5 line and will also involve discussions of other extensions of the line in future.

Further discussions on Metro extensions will form part of a municipal plan to be published in 2024, the city council said in the statement.

The M5 line will be constructed in stages with the first sections to open in 2035, according to the plan. It will require 14.7 billion kroner in financing, the municipality states.

By choosing the version of M5 that goes across Amager, a potential link to Malmö across the Øresund Bridge appears to be an option that remains in play.

“I think it is very logical that we begin now to look into how we get Metro to other neighbourhoods. That could be Nordvest, Frederiksberg and Hvidovre – and in the long term, towards Malmö,” Andersen said.

In comments to Swedish newspaper Sydsvenskan, Mayor of Malmö Municipality Katrin Stjernfeldt Jammeh called the decision in Copenhagen “very positive”.

“This is not a decision about an Öresund Metro – but it is an important step. A decision on the route of the M5 in Copenhagen’s equivalent to the municipal board is expected in the coming weeks,” she said.

Several more stages in the political process must be fulfilled before ground is broken on the M5.

It must be approved in both the Copenhagen municipal council and by the Danish parliament and pass an environmental consequence assessment, which will also go to public hearing before a law is passed and the project authorised. Following this, a contractor must be found for the construction.

A potential line to Malmö would also require approval from the Swedish parliament.

The new line is scheduled to be constructed between 2025-2034, opening in 2035.