Back on track
A degree of governmental forbearance was followed first by subsidies and now by something of a market dynamic. Norway’s freight railway company is running full wagons again and the modernisation of lines and terminals is in full swing in the country.
In 2019, Norway’s railfreight operations were on the brink of collapse. The state-owned enterprise Cargonet had seen transport volumes and earnings fall dramatically over many years. Faced with the threat of a collapse the state provided some financial support to the freight railway enterprise for a period of two years.
Subsidies and private initiative
These financial injections and a re-think in favour of rail services – which go easier on the environment, after all – brought about a turnaround. New orders, including fish transports on the Nordlandsbanen line, for example, are helping goods train operators to run at full capacity again and to intensify frequencies and runs.
That’s why there’s also new investment in rolling stock again. Cargonet and the private enterprise Onrail, for example, are both in the process of procuring two modern dual-power Eurodual locomotives from Stadler Rail, for electric and diesel-powered operations.
Modernisation at the Arctic Circle
The 729 km Nordlandsbanen line, which runs from Trondheim to Bodø, is currently the focus of infrastructure expansion. From 2020 to 2022 around EUR 1.5 billion will be invested in the overall modernisation of the line, which also serves regions north of the Arctic Circle.
Its operational procedures in the northern section see activities carried out without track blocks. Instead, station masters use green and red flags to signal to train drivers whether they can continue or have to stop – a throwback to the railway world of almost a hundred years ago.
One step forward saw a terminal for the transhipment of loads between rail and road in Fauske, in the province of Nordland, not far from the Swedish border, put into operation in November, after two years of construction that cost around NOK 160 million (EUR 15.5 million).
This also covered extending the tracks for longer goods trains. Tracks are also being lengthened in Mo i Rana, Dunderland and Bodø, and in Røkland an unused crossing is being put back into operation. The Nordlandsbanen line is now becoming the first regular line in Norway to be equipped with the European Train Control System. ETCS secures the movement of trains through a digital blocking system based on GSM-R (rail), which doesn’t require visual signals on the line.
So the times when the Nordlandsbanen line was repeatedly threatened with closure are now over. The transport policies of the new red-green government will promote the greater use of the railways in freight transport too.