Banverket seeks investment to cope with growth

Posted: 27 September 2008 | | No comments yet

With traffic increasing steadily, Banverket is seeking more money to finance new lines, adding extra capacity and improving maintenance in the Swedish rail system. Over the past decade, rail traffic growth in Sweden has been impressive. Passenger loadings are up by almost three quarters, while freight traffic has grown by more than a quarter.

With traffic increasing steadily, Banverket is seeking more money to finance new lines, adding extra capacity and improving maintenance in the Swedish rail system. Over the past decade, rail traffic growth in Sweden has been impressive. Passenger loadings are up by almost three quarters, while freight traffic has grown by more than a quarter.

With traffic increasing steadily, Banverket is seeking more money to finance new lines, adding extra capacity and improving maintenance in the Swedish rail system.

Over the past decade, rail traffic growth in Sweden has been impressive. Passenger loadings are up by almost three quarters, while freight traffic has grown by more than a quarter.

Banverket, the state-owned company responsible for the infrastructure of the rail system, argues that these rates of growth mean that there is a need for more money to be invested in the network to boost capacity. Both investments and maintenance needs to be increased to meet the needs.

Ms. Minoo Akhtarzand, Director General of Banverket, told Global Railway Review that in accordance with the current plan for the period 2004 – 2015, there is room to spend approximately SKr 100 billion on the rail network.

“But we believe that we need more than that,” explains Ms. Akhtarzand. She adds, “We have in our recent proposal to the government asked for approximately 50% more for the new planning period 2010 – 2020, than in the current plan.”

Government support

The financing of the Swedish rail system has been structured along the same lines as the road network. In the same way that road licences provide only a small proportion of the cost of maintaining the road network, charges paid by train operators for access to the rail network make up only approximately 3% of Banverket’s total turnover – the rest comes from external contract work and the government.

Compared to some other countries in Europe, the Swedish government has invested large sums in the rail network in recent years. This has been channelled through Banverket, and also through companies set up to build new rail infrastructure for specific projects. Three big projects are proceeding: underground lines in Stockholm and Malmö, and a new line in open country in the north of Sweden.

Stockholm City Line

The Stockholm City Line will provide more capacity for rail traffic in the heart of the Swedish capital. The southern approach to Stockholm Central Station, which carries approximately 500 trains each day, is one of the worst bottlenecks in the Swedish railway network. It has only two tracks – the same number as when the line was opened in 1871.

During peak periods, commuter services and regional trains compete for space on the tracks with freight traffic and long-distance trains. There is a considerable risk of operational disruptions spreading to affect the entire railway network, since trains from the whole of Sweden converge on Stockholm Central Station.

To provide relief, the City Line project will see a double-track railway with two new stations built in a 6km tunnel between the commuter station at Stockholm South and Tomteboda. The City Line will be used by commuter train services; other services will continue to run on the existing two tracks via Stockholm Central Station. More commuter trains will be able to operate through Stockholm during peak hour traffic periods, and punctuality will be improved. There will also be sufficient capacity to handle the increase in traffic that will result from other planned track extensions in the Mälar Region.

Two new stations on the City Line, City and Odenplan, will provide passengers using the Stockholm public transport system with new travel options. The new stations will reduce travel time for many passengers, either by bringing them closer to their destinations or by making it easier for them to change to the underground or bus services.

The total cost of the City Line is approximately SEK 16 billion. Heavy civil engineering work is soon to get underway, and it is planned that the line will become operational in 2017.

Malmö Citytunnel

Malmö is the city on the Swedish side of the Öresund link to Denmark. Ever since the Öresund link opened in 2000, rail operations have been constrained by the historic layout in Malmö: trains from other parts of Sweden bound for Denmark have to reverse in Malmö Central station.

To overcome this problem, the Citytunnel is providing a total of 17 km electrified railway through Malmö. This comprises two sections:

  • A 14km double-track section from Malmö Central to the Öresund fixed link – 6km of which is in two parallel tunnels under central Malmö
  • A 3km single-track line to Trelleborg and Ystad in the east

Complementing the new tunnels is a new underground extension to Malmö Central station, and two completely new stations, at Triangeln and Hyllie. Triangeln is well-sited for the city centre: anyone getting off the train here will be just a few minutes from shops, galleries, theatres and the hospital. The new stations mean that the Citytunnel will benefit not only long-distance traffic but also local traffic in the Malmö region. The construction of the Citytunnel began in March 2005 and is scheduled to be finished in December 2010.

Bothnia Line

In contrast to the new lines in Stockholm and Malmö, which are short sections of line in tunnel designed to provide extra capacity in these big cities, the Bothnia Line is a long railway in open country. It is aimed at improving links to towns on the coast in the north of Sweden.

The Bothnia Line will be a 250km/h single-track railway joining together a series of significant industrial locations. It will run from Ångermanälven, north of Kramfors airport, via Örnsköldsvik, Husum, Nordmaling, to Umeå. The line will be 190km long, with 140 bridges and 25km of tunnels.

The Bothnia Line will mark a significant milestone in Sweden’s adoption of the European Rail Traffic Management System (ERTMS): when it opens in 2010, the new route will be controlled by ERTMS and will have no lineside signals.

ERTMS progress

In preparation for extending ERTMS, Banverket has been installing GSM-R (secure mobile telephony for railways). Most of the country is now covered by GSM-R.

In May, Banverket signed contracts with a consortium of Bombardier and Balfour Beatty Rail and with Ansaldo for the roll-out of ERTMS. Two pilot ERTMS Level 2 installations will be built as part of the modernisation of the Ådalsbanan and of the Haparandabanan. The Ådalsbanan is a route in the north of Sweden where a new tunnel, the 835m Gårdberg tunnel, is under construction. Further up north, close to the Finnish boarder, Haparandabanan is being modernised.

The pilot lines will be the precursor to rolling out ERTMS on a larger scale, with several lines to be equipped with the new control system over the next three years. Not only the Bothnia Line but also the Malmö Citytunnel will have ERTMS, and it will be extended over the Öresund link in the near future.

Existing system

Both the City Line in Stockholm and the Citytunnel in Malmö are owned by Banverket and thus part of the national network. Ms. Akhtarzand says that while the new lines are built, there is a need in the meantime to maintain the conventional system as well.
For example, Banverket is engaged on a long-running project to improve the West Coast line between Gothenburg and Malmö. Part of this project involves tunnelling through the Hallandsås ridge, as the existing line over the mountain has steep gradients, limiting the trailing loads of trains and forcing some freight traffic to take a longer route inland. The tunnelling teams ran into geological problems and the original planned completion date of 2005 was missed.

“We will fulfil the project and finish it, but it will take longer than planned,” says Ms. Akhtarzand. “We are currently in discussions with the contractor, Skanska-Vinci, about the timetable for completion of the project.”

Green consciousness

Part of the reason Ms. Akhtarzand wants to increase investment in the Swedish rail system is to improve the efficiency of the railways and create a greater capacity to cope with the needs, so that it can handle more traffic and cut the amount of carbon dioxide being put into the atmosphere by aeroplanes and road vehicles, and thus help in the fight against climate change.

“There is a very high environmental consciousness in Sweden, especially among the young,” says Ms. Akhtarzand. “The railways in Sweden are already 97% electrified and so not only are they a more convenient way of travelling, they are more environmentally friendly as well.”

Ms. Akhtarzand says that electricity for rail traction comes from low-carbon sources, hydro and wind power. The Swedish electricity power system consists of approximately 40% nuclear, 50% hydro and 10% other.

“We have to see the transport sector as a whole if the effort to cut emissions is to be successful,” explains the Banverket Director General.

The Swedish government has recently directed that the different modes of transport should plan together for an environmentally and economically sound future.

Ms. Akhtarzand adds, “We work together with other traffic authorities and we are trying to present an action plan for infrastructure planning as a whole – which I think is a very good step to create an optimal transport system.”

New high-speed lines

As part of the effort to increase capacity on the rail network, draw traffic from more environmentally damaging modes of transport, help to create bigger labour market regions and increase the capacity for freight transport (by 2-3 times) in the conventional rail network, Banverket has proposed that Sweden should follow France, Germany and other countries in Europe with purpose-built high-speed lines.

Sweden has had 200km/h services for many years, since the X2 tilting trains were introduced. The present proposal is to take speeds to 320km/h or more on new infrastructure.

Two new routes are proposed, one linking the Swedish capital with Gothenburg and the other with the Öresund via Malmo. About 250km of new construction would be needed to be undertaken in phases over the next 20 years.

A report has been delivered to the government, and decisions on both this and investment levels in the conventional network were expected in September 2008.

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