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Catharina Elmsater-Svard - Articles and news items

From crisis to continued growth

Issue 5 2013 / 26 September 2013 /

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.

Sweden’s plans to increase efficiency and reliability of transport systems

Issue 5 2011 / 22 September 2011 /

Sweden is a vast country. The distance from Ystad in the south to Kiruna in the north is approximately 1,800km, yet Sweden only has 9.3 million inhabitants. The majority of Swedes live in the southern half of the country and the population has, for a long time, become increasingly concentrated in the metropolitan regions. Specialised industry in areas such as electronics and pharmaceuticals, and the service sector – which are located in big cities – are growing.

One traditional industry that is currently expanding is mining. New mining companies are being established in northern Sweden and old mines are also reopening. This requires new investments in railways.

Despite its size and low population density, Sweden has a relatively well-developed transport system, with approximately 100,000km of state-owned roads and around 12,000km of state-owned railways. To this can be added at least as many local authority-owned roads and privately owned roads that are open to general traffic.