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

Posted: 22 September 2011 | | No comments yet

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.

But Sweden’s transport infrastructure is facing the same challenges as in Europe and the rest of the world. The demand for transportation is constantly increasing, in terms of both passenger transport and freight transport. On the Swedish railways alone, passenger transport kilometres increased by 50% between 1995 and 2010, while freight transport by weight increased by 20-30%.

Although Sweden is a small country in terms of population, it is geographically one of Europe’s largest. This poses a great challenge with regard to how transport infrastructure is to be maintained and developed.

My goal at national level is to have a fully integrated transport system where all modes of transport are coordinated.

In order to increase transport efficiency we must aim to have a level playing field where the different modes of transport can compete on equal terms.

We are now in the process of opening the Swedish railway market and at the same time increasing the track fees to help finance new investment and maintenance.

We must also focus on creating transport corridors on land and sea in order to enhance integration within the European Union. Examples are the TEN-T networks and the motorways of the sea. Another example is the current plan to create the conditions for a dedicated freight corridor between Stockholm and Palermo, using a one-stop-shop solution for coordinated train planning.

The intermodal approach is also important considering the climate challenge we are now facing. Society in general must contribute to efforts to reduce the carbon footprint. The transport sector has a great responsibility in this work. There is still a lot to be done.

The Swedish labour market is dependent on flexibility. Many people live in one place and work in another. It is increasingly difficult to find housing in the metropolitan regions where the majority of job opportunities are being created. This means that more-and-more people are dependent on secure and efficient transport to get to and from their place of work or study. Investment in rail transport is therefore strategic for commuting.

Sweden is a small market, which means that Swedish companies are highly dependent on exports. Within Sweden, approximately 25% of all freight transport uses the railways, and the rest predominantly uses the roads. Many companies increasingly see the railways as their preferred mode of transport, for environmental reasons, among others.

Sweden’s ports play a crucial role in export and import flows. Around 95% of all exports and imports pass through our ports, and only 5% are transported by cross-border roads and railways. Good land-based transportation to and from the ports is therefore crucial if transport flows are to be efficient.

The paramount goal of European transport policy is to help establish a system that underpins European economic progress, enhances competitiveness and offers highquality mobility services while using resources more efficiently. I fully agree with the European Commission statement that curbing mobility is not an option.

The demand for transport will continue to grow, and it is vital that transportation is sustainable in the long term. For this reason, I would like to emphasise the importance of developing and improving cross-border transportation. Only then can we be sure to increase the efficiency and reliability of our transport systems, while at the same time reducing their impact on the environment.

Related regions