Opening speech at the Train Academy Day

On June 4, Jon-Ivar Nygård, Minister of Transport, gave the opening speech at the Train Academy Day, an event organized by Norske Tog AS.

Hello, everyone! Thank you very much for the invitation!

I want to start by talking a bit about “the big picture” before I move onto railways, and then more specifically – trains. 

Just before Easter, the government presented its National Transport Plan, which is our proposal for how Norway’s transport system should be developed over the next 12 years.

With this plan, we’re preparing ourselves for the tough challenges that lie ahead. So what are we facing?

  • In just six years, we’ll need to have reached very strict targets for cutting greenhouse gas emissions.
  • We have a new security policy situation.
  • And we’re seeing that extreme weather is becoming increasingly common.

All of this has consequences for how we plan important societal ventures going forwards, including transportation.

Delivering safer and better transportation while reducing greenhouse gas emissions and the burden on land and nature is a challenge.

Moreover, it’s quite tricky to supply as much as possible of the things we need, knowing that demand in other important areas will increase in the future. I’m talking primarily about health, social care, and defence.

A lot of money will continue to be spent on transportation – including railways. And with the priorities that we’ve set, people will have a better travel experience.

We’ve also chosen to shift our efforts away from major transport projects to focus more on operations, maintenance, improvement, and smaller investments.

In short, we’ll look after what we already have, improve things where we can, and of course build from scratch when necessary.

Norway’s new National Transport Plan includes the government’s strategy for railways up to 2050. In the years ahead, there will be a continued focus on the railways, with a strong emphasis on operations, renewal, and smaller investments.

During the first six-year period, we’ll complete ongoing expansion projects to provide significant improvements to services. A lot is being done, with several projects currently under construction. As these are completed and put into operation, maintenance and renewal efforts will be stepped up.

Meanwhile, the government is readying the initiation of several new investment projects, ensuring that Norway’s railways are equipped to deal with future growth.

For those of us working with the railways, our most important task is to provide both passengers and freight with a good, safe, and reliable train service on the existing railway network. Trains must arrive and depart on time.

Earlier this year, I announced measures aimed at improving the punctuality of trains. In other words, we’re committed to improving punctuality on the railways.

I called it The Punctuality Promise.

  • First and foremost, it’s a promise to passengers and the freight industry. We promise that more trains will run on time. We believe this will result in more satisfied passengers and encourage more people to take the train.
  • Secondly, this is an initiative that the entire railway community must be involved with.

We’ve had a tough winter and consequently a slow start to 2024. Even if we fail to meet The Punctuality Promise for the year as a whole, I believe we’ll still improve railway punctuality over the course of the year.

The prioritisation of the maintenance and renewal of railway infrastructure in the new National Transport Plan is fully in line with The Punctuality Promise. Yet in addition to having better infrastructure, fulfilling our promise depends on having trains that are reliable and attractive for passengers. 

The trains we use are an important piece of the puzzle that is Norway’s railways. 150 new train sets were put into service over a decade-long period starting in 2012. These new trains are more comfortable and cause far fewer delays and cancellations compared to the old trains. The new trains were well received by passengers.  

However, we need even more new ones because we still have a lot of old and worn-out rolling stock that needs to be replaced. Moreover, we need more new trains if we’re to offer more departures or have more passengers per train departure – in other words, more capacity.

New trains will be entering into service on a rolling basis over the coming years. Here in Oslo, the old local trains will be replaced with new rolling stock. The new trains can accommodate around 40 percent more passengers than today’s trains while improving comfort.

The new local trains are also better adapted to Norway’s climate. This winter, we saw just how important it is that our trains can withstand harsh weather. The new trains will mean fewer delayed and cancelled services. 

In addition to new local trains, there’s a need for several new regional trains, especially in Eastern Norway. This is vital if we’re to enjoy all the benefits of our expansion projects.

In total, some 50 to 60 new trains are scheduled to enter service in Oslo and Eastern Norway. Of course, this will provide travellers with a better service.

There’s also a need for new rolling stock on Norway’s long-distance routes. The initial plan is to purchase 17 new trains. These are intended to replace the old and worn-out trains currently in service between Oslo and Bergen, Stavanger and Trondheim, and between Trondheim and Bodø. The plan is to put the first trains into service on the Bergen Line in the summer of 2027.

But we won’t stop there. In the longer term, even more new trains with greater capacity may be ordered to provide a better train service to more passengers without having to invest in major railway projects.

‘To this end, we’re looking into concepts involving double-decker trains. This would be the first time that we purchase double-deckers. But let me emphasise that this hasn’t been decided yet. There are several conditions that must be taken into consideration.

We want more travellers to opt for green, eco-friendly train journeys. Of course, the on-board experience is important when people are choosing whether to go by train or another means of transport. Comfort, network coverage, and universal design are among the factors that come into play.     

I wish you a successful Train Academy Day!

Thank you very much.