From crisis to continued growth
26 September 2013 • Author(s): Catharina Elmsäter-Svärd, Minister of Infrastructure, Sweden
Increased influence for customers and public transport actors creates better conditions for the railway to enhance its competitiveness. Swedish railway reforms of the past 25 years have been based on this premise, together with state responsibility for management of the rail network run by an independent infrastructure manager. The result to date is that rail travel has increased by approximately 75% (measured in passenger kilometres), while goods transport performance is up by approximately 15%. The railway’s share of the passenger transport market has increased and the goods transport market has stabilised at almost a sustained level.
Twenty-five years ago, the Swedish railway (SJ) – then organised as a state administrative agency responsible for both traffic and infrastructure – was in crisis. Demand was declining and both rail traffic and infrastructure quality were deteriorating. There was a lack of funding for new investments and developing new service concepts such as high-speed trains.
Moreover, in the view of several public transport actors, SJ was a powerful but opaque ‘state within a state’, asserting its interests at the expense of important societal interests.