Monday, February 22, 2010

"Extreme" problems for Swedish public transit

STOCKHOLM. Many parts of the Northern hemisphere have experienced severe seasonal weather lately, with a notable exception for Winter Olympic host Vancouver.
After days of heavy snow and unusually cold weather Swedish capital Stockholm experienced an “extreme day” today, according to public transportation officials. Traffic on all metro lines above ground was cancelled and there were widespread disturbances in commuter rail and bus traffic. Stockholmers who could stay home from work were recommended to do so.
This follows a weekend of total chaos in Swedish rail traffic, due to heavy snow in the southern and central parts of the country. Many trains were cancelled, others were stuck in snow or ice for hours.
This has led to a heated debate in Sweden over what level of service that should be expected from public transportation providers in a country were cold winter weather and snow is a normal occurrence several months of the year.
Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt added his voice to the critics who questioned the failures in public transportation.
“This is thought-provoking in a country geographically located where Sweden is. After all, winter is one of the four seasons we have and we must ask ourselves why we haven’t been better at handling this situation”, he said on Monday.
But Jan Forsberg, CEO of state-owned national railways SJ, shot back, criticizing the government for not investing more in railway network.
“We have a railway network that is used to full capacity. That means we cannot handle disturbances. The system is under-dimensioned.”
Even if the sun was shining on Monday, it was a dark day for the 700,000 passengers who use Stockholm public transit on a normal day. But some choose not to worry.
“I rode my bike to work this morning on nicely cleared bicycle lanes, without any problems. The sun was shining and my long underwear made me warm”, wrote one commuter in a comment in the on-line edition of daily Dagens Nyheter.


My neighbourhood restaurant today, a nice place in the Summer.