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The hub in the Swedish railway system

Posted: 26 September 2013 | Maria Jaderholm, Project Manager Railway Operations, Transportstyrelsen | No comments yet

Transportstyrelsen – the Swedish Transport Agency – represents Sweden in the EU and also listens to the demands from the Swedish railway market. In an interview for Global Railway Review, Maria Jäderholm, Project Manager for Railway Operations at the Swedish Transport Agency, reveals that by listening, explaining and creating dialogue between the market and the EU, the Swedish Transport Agency forms a hub in the national railway system.

“Sweden is somewhat different,” states Maria – the contact person for the Council of Railway – the place where railway companies in Sweden gather and talk about regulation changes coming from the EU and what response the Swedish Transport Agency is going to send back to the EU. But you can’t talk about the Railway Council without talking about which role the Swedish Transport Agency has as a governmental agency.

On 1 January 2009, the Swedish Transport Agency started after a couple of years of preparation and investigation. The agency gathers all four ways of transportation in one; road, railway, maritime and aviation. The agency is responsible for: granting permits; keeping records over the permits; exercising supervision over the permit holders (railway companies, both operators and infrastructure companies); and formulates regulations.

Transportstyrelsen – the Swedish Transport Agency – represents Sweden in the EU and also listens to the demands from the Swedish railway market. In an interview for Global Railway Review, Maria Jäderholm, Project Manager for Railway Operations at the Swedish Transport Agency, reveals that by listening, explaining and creating dialogue between the market and the EU, the Swedish Transport Agency forms a hub in the national railway system.“Sweden is somewhat different,” states Maria – the contact person for the Council of Railway – the place where railway companies in Sweden gather and talk about regulation changes coming from the EU and what response the Swedish Transport Agency is going to send back to the EU. But you can’t talk about the Railway Council without talking about which role the Swedish Transport Agency has as a governmental agency.On 1 January 2009, the Swedish Transport Agency started after a couple of years of preparation and investigation. The agency gathers all four ways of transportation in one; road, railway, maritime and aviation. The agency is responsible for: granting permits; keeping records over the permits; exercising supervision over the permit holders (railway companies, both operators and infrastructure companies); and formulates regulations.

Transportstyrelsen – the Swedish Transport Agency – represents Sweden in the EU and also listens to the demands from the Swedish railway market. In an interview for Global Railway Review, Maria Jäderholm, Project Manager for Railway Operations at the Swedish Transport Agency, reveals that by listening, explaining and creating dialogue between the market and the EU, the Swedish Transport Agency forms a hub in the national railway system.

“Sweden is somewhat different,” states Maria – the contact person for the Council of Railway – the place where railway companies in Sweden gather and talk about regulation changes coming from the EU and what response the Swedish Transport Agency is going to send back to the EU. But you can’t talk about the Railway Council without talking about which role the Swedish Transport Agency has as a governmental agency.

On 1 January 2009, the Swedish Transport Agency started after a couple of years of preparation and investigation. The agency gathers all four ways of transportation in one; road, railway, maritime and aviation. The agency is responsible for: granting permits; keeping records over the permits; exercising supervision over the permit holders (railway companies, both operators and infrastructure companies); and formulates regulations.

Sweden has a system with relatively small ministries which have a number of agencies with expert knowledge. The agencies help the government to exercise its political decisions.

The Ministry of Enterprise, Energy and Communications is responsible for 23 agencies, including the Swedish Transport Agency. The Ministry has approximately 300 employees – about 20 of whom are political appointees.

“The Swedish Transport Administration is responsible for the infrastructure and the Swedish Transport Agency is responsible for the supervision,” explains Maria.

Different roles

The Swedish Transport Administration applies to the Swedish Transport Agency for a permit whenever they have constructed infrastructure that needs to be authorised. The Swedish Transport Agency then scans through the documentation to check whether the Swedish Transportation Administration fulfils the existing technical and security demands. The same thing goes with other companies that want to operate in Sweden. Railway companies that want to start driving cargo or people are checked by the Swedish Transport Agency if they are financially stable and have a security management system.

Maria explains: “The people working in our road units have tight contacts with the Swedish Transport Administration and co-operate in different ways, but on the railway side, our role is mainly to supervise. So within the same agency, we have different relationships with the Swedish Transport Administration.”

One reason for the splitting of the responsibilities of infrastructure and supervision is the deregulated market in Sweden. That’s also an area where Sweden is different. The Swedish Transport Agency is monitoring the railway market – both the infrastructure companies and the operators.

Supervision explained

The Swedish Transport Agency is working with a risk based supervision method. The Agency is concentrating its resources where it is needed the most. By working closely with companies that has had earlier problems and incidents, the agency’s resources are used in the most optimal way.

When a railway company gets its permit, supervision takes place after approximately a year. After that, the company gets a visit every five years, unless the Swedish Transport Agency believes that the company needs extra super – vision. If a railway company suffers from security incidents or is suspected of having financial troubles, the agency performs extra supervision.

If a railway company is having technical trouble with a certain type of vehicle, the Swedish Transport Agency warns other companies with the same vehicle – an act of working proactively with security. A deregulated market On 1 October 2010, the market for public transportation on railway opened in Sweden. During the years, foreign companies, via whollyowned Swedish companies, have started to traffic the Swedish railway system. One example is DSB – the Danish state owned railway company. But the road to a fully working and competitive market is long. The first and foremost reason to that is lack of capacity. Tracks are, plainly spoken, stuffed with traffic. The Swedish Transport Administration, which distributes the capacity among the railway companies, has declared a couple of places to be overbooked, and is forced to decline access. The mostly coveted place and time to traffic is the afternoons between the Stockholm Central Station and Stockholm Södra.

Before the market was deregulated, it consisted of a couple of major and several small companies. That pattern has not changed after the deregulation. Still, SJ is the biggest player in the public transport market and Green Cargo is dominating the cargo market.

“Short-sightedly, that’s a failure,” says Maria. “But you need to understand that it takes some time to go from a market that has been state regulated for over a 100 years to become a fully working deregulated market.”

Working with the rest of Europe

Since 1995, Sweden has been a Member State of the EU and is active within ERA – the European Railway Agency. Sweden is represented by the Swedish Transport Agency and a number of employees regularly travel to Lille in France to attend meetings with different working groups.

The long-term work for ERA is to create a common railway market where the technology works in the same way throughout Europe. That’s a task which is considerably easier said than done. The reason for that is the violent history of Europe. During the 19th century when the construction of railways begun, different track widths and technologies were used to make it more difficult for the enemy to use the railway for transporting soldiers and weapons. Now, when Europe wants to implement a common infrastructure, it takes time. The Fourth Railway Package, which is what ERA is focusing on at the moment, is a long-term plan which includes technology, security and market issues that all need to be addressed.

“ERA is looking very much at how we are working in Sweden with the deregulated market, says Maria. “Sweden is also leading in the area of security.”

The statistics show that travelling by train is almost as safe as travelling with a commercial airline. At the time of writing this article, no passengers have died since an accident in the fall of 2010 when a public transport train hit a tractor which left one person dead. Working to keep and improve the security is something that the Swedish Transport Agency is working hard to achieve.

“We are working with the goals of transport policy that the Swedish parliament has set up, where security, accessibility and environment are most important,” says Maria. “They are longterm goals and set the foundation on which we base or enterprise.”

The national goals of transport policy are supposed to work together with the goals and demands coming from the EU.

“We need to keep both the national goals and the international regulation in focus,” says Maria.

Working with the market

In order to involve the railway companies in Sweden in the development of changes coming from the EU, the Swedish Transport Agency regularly arranges something called the Council of Railway. The Council meets approximately four times a year and the contact person for that is Maria Jäderholm.

“The Council of Railway gives us a great opportunity to create a dialogue with the market,” she explains. “We use it to inform about the upcoming changes in the international regulations, and we get input from the market on how we shall react on the demands coming from the EU.”

The Council of Railway consists of infrastructure companies and operators, big and small.

“All sizes are welcome,” says Maria. “They can all make themselves heard in the Council.”

Maria admits that even if the small comp – anies have a voice in the Council, there is a risk that their issues are not prioritised in the EU where the big nations and the big companies have bigger voices. But it’s still important to feel that you are participating and being able to express their views.

“We’re listening to every opinion. Although the Council is not a decision council but a discussion council, it’s vital for the companies to be informed as early as possible on upcoming regulation changes. In that way, the market can take actions in their enterprise as early as possible,” states Maria.

Maria says the agenda of the Council of Railway adheres to the following key points:

● Employees from the Swedish Transport Agency, acting in the working groups of ERA, present the most important issues from the EU in a meeting with the Council of Railway

● The Council of Railway discusses the issues and the results of those discussions are used when the Swedish Transport Agency goes back to the EU

● In Lille (France) the Swedish Transport Agency presents the combined opinions of what that the Swedish market thinks and the agency’s own expertise

● Decisions, proposals and other information are taken back to the Council of Railway.

“It’s important that Swedish companies participate in this. It creates an understanding of why the regulations look the way they do,” says Maria. “An active and participating market improves the chances of implementing new regulations more quickly.”

Technology and supervision

A general thought in the Fourth Railway Package is the will to implement common standards more quickly. The vision is to make it possible for a person to enter a train in Kiruna, Sweden, way north of the polar circle, and leave it in Naples, Italy, without having to change trains. In order to achieve that vision more quickly, ERA wants to increase its influence – and in order to do that it’s vital that the market is on track.

Implementation of ERTMS – the European Rail Traffic Management System – is a key technology factor that needs to be in place in order to achieve true interoperability. In Sweden, the Swedish Transport Administration has decided to delay a wide implementation of ERTMS due to technical problems in the northern parts of Sweden.

“It’s going to take a long time before ERTMS comes into reality. We truly have a long way to go,” says Maria.

Maria and her colleagues are currently looking into a model from ERA called the SMS Wheel – where SMS stands for Safety Manage – ment System. It’s a system where everything from how the company is managed, competence among the employees and technical demands are part of an integrated and common way of looking at security. Since the Swedish Transport Agency is the supervision agency, the SMS Wheel has a lot of focus right now.

“We’ve just started to look into what the SMS Wheel is about and we see that we’re in pole position in many of the areas included in the model,” explains Maria. She concludes: “What we need to do now is to start a discussion with the market in upcoming councils. It’s important to work together in the way we look at security. That’s the best and quickest way to achieve a common market.”

Biography

Maria Jäderholm has an international political science education background. She has been working with both road and railway issues at the Swedish Transport Agency since 2009 when the agency was formed. She is currently working with coordinating the supervision activities within the agency. Maria is also working a lot with international issues and is the contact person for the Council of Railway. Before working for the Swedish Transport Agency, Maria worked at the Swedish Railway Agency which was the national security agency before the forming of the Swedish Transport Agency.

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