High-speed rail in Norway

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Opened on the 8th of October 1998, the only high-speed rail in Norway, on the railways of Norway is on Gardermobanen, a 64 kilometer line between Oslo Central Station and Eidsvoll via Oslo Airport. The main service on this route is Flytoget, commuting between Oslo Airport and the metropolitan areas of Oslo at speeds of up to 210 km/h (130 mph). It was extended westwards to include the city of Drammen in 2008, though not at high speed. [1] The high-speed section is also used by express and regional trains between Oslo and Eidsvoll.

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In September 2010, Jernbaneverket awarded several contracts for research into new high-speed routes in Norway. These focus on six routes; five from Oslo to Bergen, Kristiansand/Stavanger, Trondheim, Gothenburg, and Stockholm, plus a sixth coastal route through Bergen, Haugesund and Stavanger. [2]

Background

Compared to continental European countries, Norway is far more sparsely populated and quite mountainous. On the one hand this causes problems filling up trains, especially compared to other European projects and will give difficulties reaching necessary passenger numbers. On the other hand, Norwegians travel considerably more long-distance than other Europeans, for instance three of Europe's 11 busiest air routes are within Norway. Also, the long-distance road network of Norway has relatively low average speed, making air travel the main long-distance travel option today. The slow roads makes it easier for trains to compete, even though the road network also is being upgraded. For example, a 4-lane motorway will exist from Oslo to Hamar long before the planned double-track railway will. The difficult geography with fjords and mountains has historically meant circuitous routes of both roads and rail lines.

Estimates for construction costs have shown that building in Norway is considerably cheaper than on the continent, due to the ability to build tracks straight on bedrock. Also the tunnels usually can be made without sealing (like the many road tunnels) Furthermore, expropriation costs are lower since most of the corridors will go through unpopulated areas.

So far, train speed has not been prioritised on long-distance railways in Norway. Oslo-Bergen (526 km) takes about 6:40 in 2007. Oslo-Trondheim (552 km) takes 6:45. These times are about the same as during the last decades, and give an average speed of about 80 km/h. Oslo-Gothenburg is a little faster at 89 km/h, but this is due to Swedish rail quality (112 km/h) rather than Norwegian (72 km/h).

As can be seen in the chapter "Future plans", not much will be built before 2020, and no new track will be operated above 200 km/h in this time. If there is a decision to really build new long-distance high-speed lines it will represent a big change in national transport policy. The situation changed in 2018 after new transportation investment plan. [3] It is claimed that additional 270 km of high-speed lines will be built until 2029.

Plans

In Norway there are plans to build a few 200 km/h railways in near future. This limit of 200 km/h might be raised slightly in the future on certain straight parts of track. There is a decision from around 2012 of trying to allow 250 km/h on new projects, because an EU directive mandates this on new mainlines.

Long-term plans

There is also a political climate for building more high-speed railway services in Norway. The Norwegian National Railway Administration, Jernbaneverket, has paid for an analysis on the possibilities for building high-speed railway services in Norway. The VWI Stuttgart (Institute of Transportation Research at the University of Stuttgart, Germany) has done this analysis.

The conclusions indicate that the most interesting corridors are Oslo-Gothenburg (in Sweden) and Oslo-Trondheim (through the Østerdalen valley). [4] The Oslo-Bergen corridor could expect the highest passenger count, but is much more expensive to build.

According to the report, the lines are assumed to be single-track railways, with up to 4% grade, dedicated to high-speed passenger trains with a 250 km/h (155 mph) maximum cruise speed. Closer to the big cities, the railways would be double-track and also be used for regional trains.

The feasibility study has suggested that a passenger count of 5000 per day per line could be expected if rail is competitive with air travel. This is much lower than German or French high-speed lines, and building double tracks will not be economical. It will, however, be hard to get below three hours from Oslo to Bergen or Trondheim on single track, as meeting trains will be very sensitive to delays. Travel time above three hours makes it hard to compete with air travel. There is no single-track high-speed railway in operation in the world at the moment (one such, the Botniabanan in Sweden is built for 250 km/h, but does not operate above 200). The VWI investigation suggests very long passing loops (15 km) to be able to pass at 160 km/h, and accept some delays without delaying meeting trains. Since these railways would be high-speed only, the passing loops need only to be 30 minutes travel time (80–100 km) apart (assuming one train per hour per direction).

Though the initiative to the analysis itself is an evidence of a promising political climate for high-speed railways, the analysis has been heavily criticized for not being done by a recognised competence in this area, for being based on inaccurate facts, and for using gross miscalculations of important data, like potential passenger numbers and potential costs of building new high-speed tracks. Mainly these criticisms are from lobbyist organisations which prefer railways to Bergen and Ålesund, which has been seen as too expensive by VWI. Especially the recommendation by WVI to use Østerdalen (with very sparse population) and only one stop there has been criticised.

The Red-green coalition government did, with support from the Progress party and the Conservative Party, declare in 2013 that there will be no high-speed railways outside the regional network around Oslo until at least year 2030. They claim it is a waste of money. [5] Their opinion became opposite after new plans approved in 2018, government decided to spend more to transportation as a reaction to the same decisions abroad. [3]

Suggestions for high-speed railway networks

There are also some independent initiatives for high-speed railways in Norway:

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Vy (transport operator)

Vygruppen, branded as Vy, formerly Norges Statsbaner (NSB) and formerly branded internationally as the Norwegian State Railways, is a government-owned railway company which operates most passenger train services and many bus services in Norway. The company is owned by the Norwegian Ministry of Transport. Its sub-brands include Vy Buss coach services, CargoNet freight trains through and the Swedish train transport company Tågkompaniet. In 2009 NSB carried 52 million train passengers and 104 million bus passengers. On 24 April 2019, passenger train and bus services were rebranded by as Vy.

Bergen Line Railway line in Norway

The Bergen Line or the Bergen Railway, is a 371-kilometre (231 mi) long scenic standard gauge railway line between Bergen and Hønefoss, Norway. The name is often applied for the entire route from Bergen via Drammen to Oslo, where the passenger trains go, a distance of 496 kilometres (308 mi). It is the highest mainline railway line in Northern Europe, crossing the Hardangervidda plateau at 1,237 metres (4,058 ft) above sea level.

Dovre Line

The Dovre Line is a Norwegian railway line with three slightly different lines which all lead to the historic city of Trondheim.

Vestfold Line

The Vestfold Line is a 137.79-kilometer (85.62 mi) railway line which runs between Drammen and Eidanger in Norway. The line connects to the Drammen Line at the northern terminus at Drammen Station and continues as the Bratsberg Line past Skien Station. The line is exclusively used for passenger trains, which are provided by the Norwegian State Railways, which connect northwards to Oslo and south-westwards to Grenland. The 13-kilometer (8.1 mi) section from Eidanger to Skien is often colloquially included in the Vestfold Line.The standard gauge line is electrified at 15 kV  16.7 Hz AC and has twelve remaining stations. The Vestfold Line runs through the coastal region of Vestfold and serves major towns including Holmestrand, Tønsberg, Sandefjord and Larvik, as well as Sandefjord Airport, Torp.

Oslo Central Station Railway station in Oslo, Norway

Oslo Central Station is the main railway station in Oslo, and the largest railway station within the entire Norwegian railway system. It is the terminus of Drammen Line, Gardermoen Line, Gjøvik Line, Hoved Line and Østfold Line. It serves express, regional and local rail services by four companies. The railway station is operated by Bane NOR while its real estate subsidiary, Bane NOR Eiendom owns the station, and was opened in 1980.

Nationaltheatret station

Nationaltheatret Station is an underground railway station on the Drammen Line serving Vika and the central business district of Oslo, Norway. It is the second-busiest railway station in Norway, behind Oslo Central Station (Oslo S), from which Nationaltheatret is 1.4 kilometers (0.9 mi) away. Owned and operated by Bane NOR, Nationaltheatret serves regional services to the Vestfold Line and the Oslo Commuter Rail operated by Vy, intercity services on the Sørland Line operated by Go-Ahead Norge, and the Airport Express Train.

Gardermoen Line Railway line in Norway

The Gardermoen Line is a high-speed railway line between Oslo and Eidsvoll, Norway, running past Lillestrøm and Oslo Airport, Gardermoen. The line is 64 kilometres (40 mi) long and replaced the older Hoved Line as the main line north-east of Oslo. The older Hoved Line now handles commuter and freight traffic, while the Gardermoen Line handles high-speed passenger trains and freight trains laden with jet fuel for the airport. Both lines are owned by Bane NOR.

Oslo Tunnel railway tunnel between Olav Kyrres plass and Oslo Central Station

The Oslo Tunnel is a 3,632-metre (11,916 ft), double-track, railway tunnel which runs between Olav Kyrres plass and Oslo Central Station (Oslo S) in Oslo, Norway. The tunnel constitutes the easternmost section of the Drammen Line and runs below the central business district of Oslo. It features the four-track Nationaltheatret Station, Norway's second-busiest railway station, where the Oslo Tunnels lies directly beneath the Common Tunnel of the Oslo Metro. At Frogner, the Elisenberg Station was built, but has never been used. The tunnel is the busiest section of railway line in Norway and serves all west-bound trains from Oslo, including many services of the Oslo Commuter Rail and the Airport Express Train.

Asker Line

The Asker Line is a 9.5-kilometre (5.9 mi) railway line between Asker and Lysaker in Norway. The line runs along the same corridor as the Drammen Line, offering increased capacity, speed and regularity on the rail network west of Oslo. The first part opened in 2005, and in 2011 an extension opened from Sandvika to Lysaker. An extension to Skøyen in Oslo will perhaps be built after 2020. Most of the railway is in tunnel and is dimensioned for 160 km/h (99 mph) running. The entire railway is electrified at 15 kV  16.7 Hz AC. The first section cost 3.7 billion kr, while the second is budgeted at NOK 2.7 billion.

Lieråsen Tunnel

Lieråsen Tunnel is a single-tubed railway tunnel of the Drammen Line situated in Asker, Røyken and Lier in Norway. At a length of 10.723 kilometers (6.663 mi), the double track tunnel is located immediately between Asker Station and Lier Station. It is used for a mix of short- and long-haul passenger trains and freight trains.

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High-speed rail in Europe

High-speed rail in Europe is emerging as an increasingly popular and efficient means of transport. The first high-speed rail lines in Europe, built in the 1980s and 1990s, improved travel times on intra-national corridors. Since then, several countries have built extensive high-speed networks, and there are now several cross-border high-speed rail links. Railway operators frequently run international services, and tracks are continuously being built and upgraded to international standards on the emerging European high-speed rail network.

Follo Line Railway line under construction in Norway

The Follo Line is a 22.5-kilometer (14.0 mi) high-speed railway under construction between Oslo and Ski, Norway. Running parallel to the Østfold Line, it will be engineered for 250 km/h (155 mph). Terminal stations will be Oslo Central Station and Ski Station. Most of the line, 19 kilometres (12 mi), will be in a twin-tube tunnel named the Blix Tunnel, which will be the longest railway tunnel in the country. Construction started in 2014, and is estimated to be completed by December 2022. The Follo Line will increase capacity from twelve to forty trains per hour along the South Corridor, and will allow express and regional trains to decrease travel time from Ski to Oslo from 22 to 11 minutes. The line was prospected to cost over 26 billion Norwegian krone (NOK) in 2014.

Oslo Commuter Rail Commuter rail in Norway

Oslo Commuter Rail is a commuter rail centered in Oslo, Norway, connecting the capital to six counties in Eastern Norway. The system is operated by Vy and its subsidiary Vy Gjøvikbanen, using Class 69 and Class 72 electric multiple units (EMU). The network spans eight routes and 128 stations, with Oslo Central Station (Oslo S) as the central hub. The trains run on 553 kilometers (344 mi) of electrified mainline railway owned by the Bane NOR. Deficits are financed by the Norwegian Ministry of Transport, although the network also has a ticketing cooperation with Ruter, the public transport authority in Oslo and Akershus. The network is the longest commuter rail network in the Nordic countries, and among top ten in Europe.

Skoppum Station

Skoppum Station is a railway station on the Vestfold Line in the village of Skoppum, in Horten, Norway. Situated 99.54 kilometers (61.85 mi) from Oslo Central Station, it serves an hourly regional service operated by Vy. The station has two platforms and is itself located on an island platform, giving Skoppum a keilbahnhof design. The station building was designed by Balthazar Lange in Swiss chalet style.

Ringerike Line

The Ringerike Line is a proposed 40-kilometre (25 mi) extension of the Bergen Line from Hønefoss to Sandvika, Norway. It would reduce travel from Oslo to Bergen by 60 kilometres (37 mi) and 50 minutes. Currently trains from the Bergen Line to Oslo must run via Drammen on the Randsfjord Line and the Drammen Line, or via Roa on the Roa–Hønefoss Line and the Gjøvik Line.

History of rail transport in Norway

The history of rail transport in Norway had begun by 1805.

References

  1. Airport train bound for Drammen - Aftenposten.no
  2. "Railway Gazette: High speed study contracts awarded" . Retrieved 2010-10-01.
  3. 1 2 "Norway to invest NOK 120 billion in rail projects between 2018-2023".
  4. http://www.norskbane.no/nb/AbstractVWI.pdf
  5. Vraker lyntog-planer (in Norwegian)
  6. https://www.oslo-sthlm.se/