Investigating a future high-speed railway in Sweden is not a new task for the Swedish Transport Administration. The former Swedish Rail Administration received the first such commission from the Government in 1993: Create a rough outline for a future high-speed network.
In the first half of the 1990s, the Swedish Rail Administration was involved in an adaptation of the Southern Main Line that would allow trains to drive at 200 kilometres per hour. They negotiated with land owners and municipalities about replacing level crossings with bridges. At the time, the talk of a high-speed railway was only seen as disruptive to that planning process.
But now a broad investigation base is available, and knowledge has been obtained from France, Germany, Spain, Italy and Japan, among other sources. These countries built their high-speed railways for different purposes, and they have also had to deal with different challenges during the planning and construction stages – Japan has to give significantly more thought to earthquakes than Sweden does, for example.
Limited capacity on existing main lines
The existing main lines are currently being used for mixed traffic. Long-distance trains share the line with regional, commuter and freight trains. The capacity is limited, and the system is all too sensitive to disruptions. After studying a number of alternative solutions, the Swedish Transport Administration has chosen to continue planning a more or less separate system for high-speed trains. This means that it will be possible to use the existing lines for regional, commuter and freight transport more effectively, aiming for a higher level of punctuality.
The new separate high-speed railway will be used for express regional trains and high-speed trains travelling at the maximum speed possible on the track. The traffic prognoses produced by the Swedish Transport Administration are based on two and, in the long term, three departures per hour towards Göteborg and Malmö throughout most of the day. This is fewer departures than today, but as the new trains will be more than twice as long as the current trains, they will not need to make as many trips.
There is an intense investigatory and fact-collecting effort underway in 2015. The Swedish Transport Administration is conducting a long line of investigations of technical and socioeconomic aspects on behalf of the National Negotiation on Housing and Infrastructure. In 2016, the current fact collection phase will enter into a negotiating phase, which will led by the negotiators assigned by the Government. They will negotiate a final proposal with municipalities and regions, which is to be completed in the autumn of 2017. The business sector and other stakeholders will also have the opportunity to influence the outcome.
Benefits from efficient travel options
Everyone benefits from Sweden's investment in a modern railway network. Since the entire railway system is integrated, the new high-speed railways will relieve the system and improve its capacity. Efficient travel and transport options are beneficial to the labour market and growth in the whole country. The ongoing investigatory work has already shown that the positive impact of the new high-speed railways will not be limited to long-distance journeys. The regional train traffic will also be improved. One clear example is the travel time between Göteborg and Borås, which will be cut in half, down to 30 minutes. That route is currently the third largest commuter route in Sweden, with journeys going in both directions as many of the commuters work in Göteborg, while both the university and the centre of the fashion and textile industry are located in Borås. Plans are currently underway for this route, and one important question is where to place the station in Borås.
Once negotiations have been completed in 2017, agreements will have been made between the state, regions, municipalities and businesses. These agreements will provide answers regarding who is funding what, both in terms of infrastructure in the metropolitan areas and the new high-speed railways, how the expansion of these high-speed railways will be executed and where the housing will be constructed. The works will then proceed into new phases of planning, design and construction. And in twenty years, we can all reap the benefits.