Friday, August 31, 2012

Swedish train system privatization fail?

It’s been a few years since Sweden began to allow private train companies to compete and run trains on the Swedish rails. Yay for free trade right? Except that currently the Swedish train system is really struggling to stay afoot.

Sure this is purely anecdotal, but as someone who usually opts for traveling by train for business trips or commuting because it is more relaxing than driving or flying, things seem to be going worse than usual for the Swedish trains.

Trains are getting more and more unpredictable. They are late, very late. And even worse, there is often no explanation for the lateness. This week my train was almost two hours late, and despite known delays that started well before the train was scheduled to arrive at our station, we weren’t told of the delay until a half an hour after the expected departure time.

In the south, local train service has been struggling to find a company willing to take responsibility for the local service because there is just no money in it. Add to that the aging train rails and a system that seems to break down on a weekly basis causing traffic chaos, the question remains what Sweden plans to do to bring its train system into the 21st century.

Yesterday the Swedish government announced a plan to pump money into the dying train system, but the question is, is it enough? There are no plans to introduce a new fast train, and the question remains if it will really help boost local commuter traffic.

I have always sung the praises of the Swedish public transport system. You can literally get on the bus in the center of a town or city and end up on the edge of a swimming hole in the middle of the woods.

I wonder how much damage privatization has done to the train system. With a bunch of large companies competing over price and availability, where is the money that is supposed to go to taking care of the tracks, the trains and the safety of the conductors?


  1. The last few sentences really hits the nail actually; a lot of the issues, from what I've been told, are related to track quality and maintenance, which is years behind (and still on the state's dime.) But yeah, I haven't been TO Sweden for a while, but I've heard lots of complaints about delayed, interrupted and ridiculously long train rides - more than a few years ago.

  2. I used to work for Banverket, which did the maintanace and care of the trains and tracks while it was owned by the Government. Back then there ware constant preventive maintenance of all components of the electrical and controlsystems aswell as all the switches and tracks on a rolling schedule year round and the older Swedish trains ware reliable.

    The old trains still run and are sometimes taken in as replacements as they actually work even when there's 1 mm of snow on the tracks but as they are slow they rearly take over the high speed lines and are often used for cargo.

    Replace the new trains with upgraded old trains, sure it will take longer to get to your destination but alteast you will get there, even when the temps reach below 10c! *smile* *wink*