Engaged train debate at Arendalsuka
Politicians and train enthusiasts gathered early Wednesday morning during “Arendalsuka” to discuss what it takes to make train travel more attractive. A wide range of opinions and approaches were voiced, but there was no doubt among the panelists and contributors that we need to invest in the Norwegian railways.
- Trains are the best transport solution for the climate – it is energy efficient, effective, and climate friendly. In order to cut emissions, more people need to travel by train, said CEO of Norske tog, Øystein Risan at his opening speech at the event.
Risan is the Head of Norske tog, which is responsible for purchasing, owning, and managing trains in Norway. Recently, the company entered into an agreement that will modernise the Norwegian train fleet – the agreement gives the option to acquire up to 200 new local and regional trains, and 100 new long-distance trains over the next 10 years.
On Wednesday 16 August, Norske tog invited to a debate about the ambitions of the Norwegian railways and what it takes to make train travel more popular.
Need to ensure operational stability and increased capacity
The Norwegian railways are old, both the rails and the trains. Heavily investments are therefore required to succeed with the ambitions in the Nation Transportation Plan (NTP) to have an effective, environment friendly and safe transport system across the country.
- It is important to further develop the railways. Especially, we need to ensure the operational stability and to increase the capacity moving forward, said the Norwegian Railway Director Knut Sletta, when speaking at the event.
Sletta gained support from the deputy minister of Transport Cecilie Knibe Kroglund, who highlighted the need to improve both the train service and the capacity.
- A large proportion of the Norwegian train fleet are old, and train repairs are often the reason for deviations. Therefore, new trains alone will contribute to better operational stability, while at the same time also significantly improve the travel experience, she said.
According to Knibe Kroglund, the government are investing in trains. About 30 MRD NOK - approx. 40 percent of the Minstry of Transport’s budget - has been set aside to railway investments.
- We can achieve a lot with 30 MRD NOK. We have a number of train procurements in process, which will ensure better capacity and better solutions for the travelers, Knibe Kroglund explained.
High comfort and good Wifi is crucial
High comfort and good wifi were highlighted as crucial to increase the passenger demand by the panelists. Comfortable seats facing the travel direction, flexible solutions with room for different equipment, increased capacity on the sleeping offer, and new innovative trains solutions were also highlighted as important factors to make train travel attractive.
The new long-distance trains will comprise several of the mentioned features, and there was no doubt among the panelists – the new train sets look very promising. However, some important features as missing. Mari Henrikke Haga, the Head of Green Students (Grønne studenter), called for a broader and more affordable sleeping offer that students can afford. Liv Kari Eskeland, parliamentary representative for the Conservative Party (Høyre), were disappointed that there will not be step-free access in the new long-distance trains and wanted answers for the Norske tog CEO.
- The new commuter trains - where the majority of people travel - will have step-free access. We want step-free access for the long-distance travel as well, however due to the railway infrastructure and harsh Norwegian climate conditions, there are not yet a solution which allows step-free access from very differing platform heights, Risan explained.
Risan was supported by the deputy minister, who underlined that it is the technical solutions that sets the boundaries, not the will.
- We have been looking at several different options and will continue to look for new solutions to ensure that the new long-distance trains will have the best possible solutions for all travelers, the Norske tog CEO promised.
Great potential for more train travelers
At the end of the event, Risan was pleased about the government’s railway ambitions, and not least the positive feedback on the new trains from the panelists. Risan ended the event by pointing out the great potential for increased train travel in Norway.
- With our new procurement agreements, we have the option to acquire the trains there is will and money for. We know that new trains contribute to increasing the demand. When we put the FLIRT trains into service, we saw that travelers flocked to the railway, which means that the combination of facilitation and ambitions put us on the right track. The market share for trains in Norway are relatively low compared to other countries. Therefore, there are a great potential to get more people to travel by train in Norway, Risan concluded.
See the presentation of the new commuter trains and the new long-distance trains here (In Norwegian).