Will government go-slow put political enthusiasm in to the sidings?
There currently appears to be cross-party political and parliamentary support for calculating the cost of implementing high-speed trains in Norway in the near future. The exceptions are the far-right (Fremskrittspartiet – FrP), and the Labour party (Arbeiderpartiet – Ap) which has a government majority. FrP claims that it will be unprofitable, and Ap would like to clarify the cost first, before making a decision four years down the line as to whether to build or not.
Government vs. parliament
In their recently released environmentally-friendly suggestion to the National Transport Plan (NTP) the government wants to put more goods traffic on to the railways, in order to reduce the level of harmful emissions. Although they wish to reduce journey-times by upgrading the electricity supply system, no mention was made of funding to build a separate high-speed rail network.
According to both Dagens Næringsliv and Dagbladet, the Socialist Left party (SV) have long supported building the network, despite what could be seen as the government dragging its feet.
“SV has always wanted to get the trains going. But the express trains have somehow never been taken seriously by the governing classes...The government isn’t following suit” writes Dagbladet in Saturday’s leader.
And it doesn’t look as though the government’s wish for clarification is being taken very much in to account.
“Consequently, the government parties in parliament are going further than the government wished on this issue”, Aftenposten writes in its leader on Saturday.
It appears that parliamentary support for SV’s proposal is strong.
“Parliament is more impatient than the government...The aim, with which an ever increasing number concur, is that the bulk of the air-passenger traffic between Oslo and the other larger cities will be carried by train” Dagbladet writes.
But with each kilometre costing between 180 and 220 million kroner, it is still not particularly cheap.
“The high-speed trains have obvious advantages but, at the same time, are so costly, that the basis for making the decision must be as solid as possible” writes Aftenposten.
So is it worth it? According to the paper although SV’s suggestion is endorsed by most parties, parliament itself is, at the same time, being understandably cautious.
“It’s the studies that parliament has now asked for, that can give a satisfactory answer to how many stretches justify consideration, in relation to the economic cost to society.”
Fast train to where?
According to Aftenposten, parliament is considering the possibility of using the trains, that will travel at a minimum of 250 kph between Oslo, Halden, Lillehammer, and Skien – the three major intercity routes.
Dagens Næringsliv asked Ap’s transport’s spokesman, Torstein Rudihagen, which destinations he thinks the trains will serve.
“Oslo-Trondheim, Oslo-Gothenburg, and Oslo-Bergen with a “side-trip” to Haugesund and Stavanger” he tells the paper; identical to Deutsche Bahn’s recent report.
But time-wise, his answer as to when we could expect to see these trains was not as fast as the trains themselves.
“I will be surprised if we achieve particularly high speeds before 2020" says Rudihagen.
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