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Foreword: Sweden works to maintain a successful open rail market

18 September 2014  •  Author(s): Jan-Evert Rådhström – Vice Chair of the Committee of Transport and Communications of the Swedish Parliament

Jan-Evert Rådhström – Vice Chair of the Committee of Transport and Communications of the Swedish Parliament

Jan-Evert Rådhström – Vice Chair of the Committee of Transport and Communications of the Swedish Parliament

The Swedish railway system is undergoing a period of reform and modernisation. The first step of this extensive overhaul can be traced back to 1988, when the national railway authority – SJ – was split into two separate units; one responsible for the administration of the country’s rail infrastructure (then Banverket; currently Trafikverket) and the other for train operations (SJ). This move subsequently opened for competition on the tracks and a new type of administrative organisation followed naturally. Jan-Evert Rådhström – Vice Chair of the Committee of Transport and Communications of the Swedish Parliament – looks back at how the Swedish rail market operated before deregulation and examines what the future will hold following the government’s launch of a national plan for the transportation system for 2014-2025.

Going from a sluggish governmental authority towards a market with free operators, with various roles and responsibilities, has not been a walk in the park. Ensuring efficient collaboration between the various organisations is time consuming. Today, the railway infrastructure is administered by government agency Trafikverket (the Swedish Transportation Administration), responsible for planning and contracting, while Transportstyrelsen (the Swedish Transport Authority), monitors compliance. Construction and maintenance is performed by competing contractors. Stations and depots are run by both public and private real estate companies. Goods and passenger transport services are fully exposed to competition. The market for rail freight was fully opened in the mid-1990s. Commuter train services were deregulated in 1990 and have since been run by county authorities. The market for long-distance passenger transport has been opened step-by-step – initially, international transports, followed by weekend trains, and finally, since 2012, all train transports in Sweden are subject to competition. Within a few years, multiple operators will compete on the Swedish railroads. We can now observe the positive effect of deregulation on how the Swedish railroads are organised.

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