Q&A: The New East Coast Line, why is a railway in northern Sweden essential for Europe?
Our vision: Redesigning Sweden
Sweden is a vast country. A nation which heavily depends on its export industry. One of its main challenges has always been overcoming long distances. But thanks to an efficient infrastructure, modern business environment, and a spirit of innovation Sweden is now booming.
We want to redesign the Swedish map and shorten the distances along the strategically important and expansive east coast north of Stockholm. We want to create a sustainable rail network which will help to connect the extensive east coast north of Stockholm to the rest of Europe. We want to make it easier for people to be able to choose where to live and where to work. We want visitors to be able to see more parts of Sweden. And by building this double-track rail way, people will be able to do so safely, reliably, and in an environmentally friendly manner.
The goal is to have the railway completed by 2030. But for this to happen, the requisite decisions must be made no later than spring 2018.
The bottleneck of the country
The Swedish railway network has a serious weak spot: the single track East Coast Line between Gävle and Härnösand. This is one of the longest and most heavily congested stretches of railway in Sweden. It passes through a number of cities which are home to some of the nation’s most prominent industries such as Sandvik, SCA Graphics, Iggesund Paperboard, and BillerusKorsnäs.
The north of Sweden is a large provider of natural resources to Europe. 90 percent of all iron ore in Europe comes from Sweden. Each day, the equivalent of the steel of one Eiffel Tower is shipped to manufacturers in countries all over the continent. In addition to this, more sustainable products like bio-diesel are also being developed for export. In order to reach our carbon emission goals we must change the way we manage our transportation of goods and using the railway is the most effective way to do so.
The current East Coast Line has steep inclinations and sharp curves, limiting cargo weights and the speed at which the trains can get to their locations, creating frequent delays. This is one of the reasons why many companies prefer the use of other transport methods such as trucks and semi-trailers. Vehicles can drive on the parallel E4 highway, a route that will get their products to their final destination, but at the cost of greater environmental impact.
Despite political initiatives and incentives, the 90-year old single-track railway does not cut it anymore.
Double tracks — quadruple amount of trains
Expanding the 270 kilometer long single-track railway to a double-track railway would allow for an increase from a mere 70 trains a day to well over 200, integrating it fully with the already existing state-of-the-art Bothnia line to the north of Sweden.
It would provide a reliable and safe way of delivering goods to the rest of Europe, vital for the future growth of the European economy. And at the same time relieving the E4 highway of over 1500 carbon dioxide emitting trucks — every day!
Double tracks bring cities together
In addition to the increase in transportation capacity, the expected travel times would be cut by half. With the double-track railway in place you would be able to travel from Stockholm to Sundsvall in just two hours, compared to four hours at present. This would help bring the already expanding cities along the East coast closer together, thereby expanding the area where people work and in turn change how they do business.
The tourism in Sweden is a growing export industry. More and more Europeans are interested in exploring Sweden’s unique landscape and our active and environmentally progressive lifestyle.
Since 2000, the total export revenue from tourism has increased by 194 percent, which is more than three times as much compared to the domestic tourism.
Among some of the growing attractions we have the Arctic Mountain landscape in the north of Sweden, clean, crystal clear lakes and charming cities like Härnösand and Hudiksvall.
The north of Sweden has the potential to attract even more European tourists. With a double-track railway between Gävle and Härnösand visitors can board a comfortable train at Stockholm Central Station or Arlanda Airport and within a few hours they could experience the breathtaking High Coast north of Sundsvall, the highest coastline in the world.
A win-win solution
For Sweden to continue to grow and develop as a country trade and communication are essential. In addition a close connection with Europe is vital in order for innovation and inspiration when developing new ideas.
In return, Sweden has a lot to offer. A part from the natural resources such as iron and the high quality forest industry, Sweden is also a heaven for tech start ups. In 2017 Sweden topped the Forbes list of Best Countries for Business, partly thanks to the young, innovative music and gaming industry. It is a country that offers a great place for businesses and people to grow and develop.
One of Sweden’s biggest issues is the distance from north to south – 2000 kilometers. In order to continue to be a contributor in making Europe a modern, flourishing, sustainable and well connected society we rely on green, efficient transportation to bring us together.
By building a double-track railway on the East Coast Line we are definitely taking a step in the right direction. We think it is a win-win solution where we have the opportunity to give people and companies not just from Sweden, but also from the rest of Europe the possibility and flexibility to choose how to and where to live, work and do business.
In 2015 the company Ostkustbanan 2015 AB was founded by Gävleborg Region, the County Council of Västernorrland and the municipalities of Gävle, Söderhamn, Hudiksvall, Nordanstig, Sundsvall, Härnösand, Kramfors and Örnsköldsvik.
The mission of the company is to accelerate the expansion of a double-track railway between the cities of Gävle, Sundsvall and Härnösand.
The company would like to show the positive impact this double-track railway would have on these communities and the rest of the country.
It would result in more work opportunities, make it easier for people to travel and therefore expand the job market. It would also help contribute to create a cleaner environment.
The goal is to have the railway completely finished no later than 2030.
The CEO of the company is Ingela Bendrot, former State Secretary at the Ministry of Enterprise and Innovation.