Sweden’s centre-right alliance parties promised investment in a new high-speed rail network prior to the 2014 general election, but afterwards the Moderates and the Liberals abandoned the project. The pendulum now appears to have swung back, however, with a number of senior Moderates, including Catharina Elmsäter Svärd, the former infrastructure minister, calling on party members to back a new financing plan for such a network.
Similar calls are also being heard among Liberals; Anita Jernberger, from the Östergötland region, says politicians must dare to believe in the project, which would allow Sweden to connect to the planned Denmark-Germany undersea Fehmarn tunnel
On Tuesday Sweden’s Transport Administration (Trafikverket) specified the cost of a high-speed rail link to SKr 230 billion. Previously the cost of the project had been estimated at between SKr 190 and 320 billion.
Alternatively, said the agency, the existing rail infrastructure could be upgraded, which would cost SKr 100 billion less. However, Director General Lena Erixon was keen to point out yesterday that there is still some uncertainty about the projected cost.
The government will now look more closely at the figures, before making a decision. According to Infrastructure Minister Anna Johansson (S), there are a number of issues that need to be considered, including low carbon transport policy.
With a new high-speed rail track projected to cost between 190 and 320 billion kronor, the government is considering the possibility of upgrading the main railway lines instead, and has charged the Swedish Transport Administration (Transportverket) to look at alternatives to the high-speed project.
However, Bo-Lennart Nelldal, professor emeritus in rail traffic planning at the Royal Institute of Technology, warns that it will be more expensive to repair the existing tracks than to invest in a new main line.
Sweden’s high-speed railway risks devouring half of all investment in infrastructure for a long time to come, notes Lena Erixon, the director general of the Swedish Transport Administration (Trafikverket).
Appropriations will need to be increased by as much as SKr 10-15 billion annually, otherwise other important projects are likely to be affected, she warns.