Swedish rail infrastructure has a “large maintenance debt”, says minister
“There is a large maintenance debt that has built up over a long time and that requires action, the Swedish railway network must be improved”, Swedish infrastructure minister Andreas Carlson said at a press conference this week.
In June, the minister gathered the players of the railway industry for a meeting due to the problems with the planning of the train traffic that have been and the challenge of long overdue maintenance, says a statement of the Ministry of infrastructure. At that meeting, the Swedish Transport Administration (Trafikverket) informed about the problem and gave an update on the ongoing work to improve the situation.
According to a report of the Confederation of Swedish Enterprise (Svenskt Näringsliv) from March this year, maintenance of rail and road infrastructure in Sweden has been de-prioritised for decades, which leads to costs for business, citizens and society. “Now, the consequences of that are visible. Delayed maintenance leads to a decrease in capacity, traffic safety and accessibility, while damage, delays and accessibility restrictions increase”.
The Confederation commissioned consultancy company Ramboll to estimate the maintenance debt and how its affects the Swedish business community. To estimate the maintenance debt, Ramboll has compared the Swedish Transport Administration’s annual reports for the years 2015-2020 with the policy documents for 2015 and 2020. According to the report, in 2020 the deferred maintenance amounted to almost 46 billion Swedish crowns, (3.8 billion euros), referring to Trafikverket.
In the national plan for 2022-2033, the allocation for railway maintenance does increase by 25 per cent compared to the previous plan. With this, in addition to maintaining current functionality, some of the deferred maintenance could also be recovered.
More effective maintenance
The government now intends to decide on a task for the Swedish Transport Administration to report on the measures that the authority is carrying out and intends to carry out in order to develop and strengthen its customer competence and ability to plan and carry out railway maintenance with the aim of increasing robustness, reliability and the punctuality of rail traffic. The report, with a deadline no later than February 12, 2024, must also include what measures are implemented to improve the functioning of the railway maintenance market and thus promote the conditions for the market’s players to develop, and contain an account of the development of punctuality in rail traffic over at least a five-year period, broken down in such a way that it appears in detail which different circumstances and actors within the rail system cause delays.
The government believes that an important factor for effective maintenance of the railway is that market players work with development, innovation and investments in the business. “Closer collaboration between the Swedish Transport Administration, transport companies, transport buyers and maintenance companies is necessary to find effective and innovative solutions”, says Carlson.