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This article is about "Flytoget, the airport express train", for other airport express trains see Airport Express Train
The Airport Express Train ( ) is a Norwegianmarker high-speed airport rail link connecting Oslo Airport, Gardermoenmarker to Oslomarker in nineteen minutes. Operated by Flytoget AS, it runs sixteen Class 71 trains along the high-speed Gardermoen Line, normally once every ten minutes, with half the services continuing westwards to Drammenmarker. These serve nine stops within Greater Oslo. Travel time to Oslo Central Stationmarker is 19 minutes and 60 minutes to Drammen.

Flytoget transported 5.4 million passengers in 2007, a 34% market share of airport ground transport. The service is the only high-speed rail service in operation in Norway, with a top speed of . Founded in 1992 as a subsidiary of the Norwegian State Railways, construction started in 1994; during construction the tunnel Romerike Tunnelmarker had a leak, draining two lakes and delaying the opening the tunnel one year. The service began with the opening of the airport in 1998. One fatal accident has been caused by Flytoget trains. Since 2001 the company has been owned by the Norwegian Ministry of Trade and Industry.

History

When the Norwegian Parliamentmarker on 8 October 1992 decided to build a new central airport for Eastern Norway, they also decided that the main mode of ground transport should be by rail. While the previous airport, Oslo Airport, Fornebumarker, was located just outside the city limits, the new airport, Oslo Airport, Gardermoen, would be located north of the city, outside the reach of existing public transport. The principle of the airport construction was that it was not to be footed by the tax payers; the entire airport would be built with borrowed money through Oslo Lufthavn ASmarker, a subsidiary of the Norwegian Airport Administration. The same principle was chosen for the airport rail link—the Norwegian State Railways (NSB) creating the limited company subsidiary NSB Gardermobanen AS, founded on 24 November 1992, to perform the construction of the line. It would be able to charge train operators using the line, channeling the payments to cover down payments and interest of the debt used to build the railway. Profit margin was estimated to 7.5%.

Construction

Oslo Airport, Gardermoen is not on the Trunk Line that runs north from Oslo. With heavy traffic and many small stops until Lillestrømmarker, and continuing north as single track, the Trunk Line would have to be supplemented by a parallel double track from Oslo, with a new route north of Kløftamarker to Eidsvollmarker; the north of the airport allowing trains operating on the Dovre Line to Lillehammermarker and Trondheimmarker to access the airport. The line was named the Gardermo Line.

The Gardermo Line was the second attempt to build high-speed rail in Norway, after the line from Skimarker to Mossmarker on the Østfold Line. But no operation speeds exceeding are achieved there due to short distances and limitations to rolling stock, making Gardermobanen the first real high-speed railway line in Norway. Due to the domination of single track in Norway, Gardermobanen increased the total length of double track in the kingdom with two-thirds.

Construction started in 1994. An agreement for purchase of sixteen three-car electric multiple units was signed with ADtranz on 23 February 1995. Parliament decided 1 October 1996 that the construction company would also operate the new train service. The trains were delivered between 19 September 1997 and 30 January 1998, costing NOK 1.4 billion.

Challenges

The greatest challenge was the Romerike Tunnelmarker from Etterstad, beside Oslo Central Station, to Lillestrøm—the longest railway tunnel in Norway, located underneath the geological highly unstable recreational area Østmarkamarker. In 1997, the water level in some of the lakes above the tunnel, including Lutvannmarker and Nordre Puttjern, sank dramatically. After the leakages were discovered on 3 February 1997, sanctions requiring leakage removals were initiated by the Norwegian Water Resources and Energy Directorate. At the worst the tunnel leaked of water per minute.

The substance Rhoca-Gil was used to attempt fix the leakages, but failed to work properly. Not only did it not polymerize and fail to tighten the leak, it also intoxicated the surroundings with acrylamide. Manual fixing with concrete became necessary; the fixing and cleaning up of the toxin delayed the building of the tunnel by one year. Further complications arose due to conflicts between NSB Gardermobanen and the construction company, Scandinavian Rock Group, with the latter at one instance stopping work for three weeks while the parties quarreled in court.

Reports have shown lack of control- and reporting procedures during incidents that should have been addressed—but never taken seriously—in 1995. About sixty houses received damages due to the construction of the tunnel and an evaluation by the Ministry of Transport and Communications showed NOK 500 million went to fixing the leaks; claiming this to a large extent was unnecessary expenditure due to inefficient engineering procedures. It also criticized the administrative planning and organization of the overall construction of the railway.

When the new airport opened on 8 October 1998, the Airport Express Train started operations; the trains had to use the old Trunk Line line from Oslo S to Lillestrøm, but could use the new high-speed line from Lillestrøm to Gardermoen. Flytoget was forced to only operate two trains per hour due to capacity restraints on Hovedbanen. Regular operations at full capacity using the Romerike Tunnel started on 22 August 1999.

Reorganization

Estimates for the project costs were NOK 4.3 billion, ±20%, but by completion they had ended at NOK 7.7 billion, of which NOK 1.3 billion were related to the leakages. The rest of the line had a cost exceedings of NOK 0.4 billion. The company had acquired financial costs of NOK 0.9 billion, so the company owed NOK 10.0 billion by 1999, including money spent on the new trains.

The first steps of organizational restructure were taken 29 June 2000, when the CEO of NSB, Osmund Ueland, was fired due to several incidents related to the operations of NSB—not just the Gardermo Line. Einar Enger took over as new CEO on 26 February 2001.

The debt in NSB Gardermobanen had become unmanageable, and in April 2000 parliament accepted that it would not be possible to make the Gardermo Line—with the current structure—the profitable venture predicted in 1992. From 1 January 2001, the company changed name to Flytoget AS, retaining ownership of the trains and operations and kept as a subsidiary of NSB. The tracks and infrastructure were transferred to the Norwegian National Rail Administration ( ), who owns the rest of the Norwegian railway network. All debt was restored and covered by the state, and a vehicle excise duty was implemented on the Gardermo Line to cover the management and maintenance of the line, to be paid by all users.

On 9 December 2002, parliament decided that Flytoget AS would become a separate railway company from 1 January 2003, owned directly by the Ministry of Transport and Communications. One year later the ownership was transferred to the Ministry of Trade and Industry as part of a cleanup of political overhaul between the departments. As part of the process, a new CEO, Thomas Havnegjerde, was appointed in June 2002, and in January 2003 the new Chair, Endre Skjørestad—who took over the position form NSB's director Einar Enger. Havnegjerde announced on 6 August 2008 that he would retire from his job before the end of the year. He was replaced by Linda Bernander Silseth on 10 November 2008. On 30 August 2009, two of three services to Asker were extended to Drammen. This followed upgrades to the Drammen Line, including the Lieråsen Tunnelmarker, and a new parking lot at Drammen Stationmarker, in total costing NOK 20 million.

Operations

Departures operate every ten minutes from Oslo Central Station (Oslo S) to the airport. Half of the trains originate at the suburb Asker, making four intermediate stops before Oslo S, and again at Lillestrøm. The other half go directly from Oslo S to Gardermoen. On Saturdays, Sunday mornings and in most of July, Flytoget does not operate the direct trains from Oslo S—only the 20-minute headway all-stop trains. While the services northeast from Oslo S to the airport use the high-speed Gardermo Line, those westwards towards Asker use the Drammen Line built in 1870–72; so while the from Oslo S to the airport can be done in 19 minutes, the from Asker to Oslo S takes 26 minutes. The latter does however include stops at five stations: Nationaltheatretmarker, Skøyenmarker, Lysakermarker, Sandvikamarker and Askermarker.

Competition is offered from other means of ground transport and by NSB who operate trains from Oslo to the airport. This includes one hourly departure with line 450 of the Oslo Commuter Rail north to Eidsvollmarker and south to Oslo, Drammenmarker and Kongsbergmarker; one regional train hourly north to Hamarmarker and Lillehammermarker and south to Vestfold; and five daily express trains to Trondheim calling Oslo Airport Station, including one night train.

The price of a ticket to Oslo is NOK 170, though higher if departing from Sandvika, Asker and Drammen. Reduced fares with 50% discount are offered to senior citizens, children, youth under 21 years, students, benefit recipients and military personnel. Flytoget tickets are not valid on NSB trains, and vice versa. NSB tickets are generally cheaper, though not for some groups with reduced fare; for instance students are granted a greater discount with Flytoget than with NSB. Ticket can either be bought at vending machines or as e-tickets; there is no seat reservation.

Flytoget transported 5.4 million passengers in 2007, a 34% market share of airport ground transport. Flytoget boasts a high service quality, with 96% of departures arriving within 3 minutes of schedule and only 0.4% of departures canceled. Part of this is due to the airport express trains receiving priority over other trains in the limited capacity around Oslo. Flytoget was announced to have the most satisfied, and the fourth most loyal customers of all Norwegian companies in 2008, by the customer satisfaction survey conducted by the Norwegian School of Managementmarker. The same year Flytoget was declared the best place of work in Norway by Great Place to Work. During the 2007 recruitment half of the newly educated train divers chose Flytoget over NSB, mostly due to higher wages.

Stations

Station Distance Time Fare Reduced fare
Oslo Airportmarker 0.00 km 0 min n/a n/a
Lillestrømmarker 30.90 km 12 min NOK 130 NOK 65
Oslo Central Stationmarker 48.07 km 19 / 22 min NOK 170 NOK 85
Nationaltheatretmarker 49.50 km 27 min NOK 170 NOK 85
Skøyenmarker 52.43 km 32 min NOK 170 NOK 85
Lysakermarker 55.07 km 34 min NOK 170 NOK 85
Sandvikamarker 62.24 km 42 min NOK 200 NOK 100
Askermarker 71.93 km 48 min NOK 200 NOK 100
Drammenmarker 100.96 km 60 min NOK 250 NOK 125


Incidents

Several deaths have taken place on the route, but only one due to an accident. In 1999, an employee of the National Rail Administration was killed by a train because it was operating at instead of the temporarily reduced limit of ; Flytoget was fined for not informing the engineer of the speed limit reduction. Several other deaths on the line have been classified as suicides, and so are not in the accident statistics; they do however cause delays on all services for hours after the incident takes place.

In 2000–01, Flytoget experienced three derailments with empty trains at Gardermoen; one caused by the engineer falling asleep and two by the train passing a red light. No more such accidents occurred after automatic train control was installed in 2001.

Delays have been experienced many times by travelers due to technical problems on the infrastructure. In particular the old line west of Oslo causes much delay, and the National Rail Administration performed during 2008 a NOK 100 million upgrade to the Oslo Tunnelmarker to ensure better performance. But problems also incur on the new sections, regularly delaying service or capacity, and forcing Flytoget to operate fewer departures. In total 96% of departures arrived within 3 minutes of schedule and 0.4% of departures were canceled in 2007.

Pickpocketing has been a problem since the start; even the Chief of Police in Oslo has been picked on the train. The train has also been the target of sabotage, and embezzlement for NOK 1 million by an employed ticket salesman, who found a way to print two tickets with the system only charging for one, by turning off and on the ticket printer.

When Al Gore came to Oslo to receive his Nobel Peace Prize on 7 December 2007, he used the Airport Express Train to make his journey as environmentally friendly as possible. The company has initiated a program to ensure better diet for the employees; this had made several lose weight and has reduced the level of sick leave from 12 to 8%. In 2005–07, a program to reduce the energy use of the trains through smarter operation reduced energy consumption by 15%.

Future plans

In 2005, the first part of the Asker Line opened between Sandvika and Asker, with new double track running parallel to the old Drammen Line, allowing quicker travel times to Asker. The second section, between Lysaker and Sandvika, is planned to open in 2011, and will reduce travel time west of Lysaker by about seven minutes. The project includes a full upgrade of Lysaker Station.

Rolling stock

Interior of the Airport Express Train
The company operates sixteen Class 71 three-car electric multiple units delivered in 1997–98, and built domestically by ADtranz at Strømmen based on carbodies built in Adtranz factory in Kalmarmarker. They are based on the Swedish X2 operated by SJ in their X 2000 intercity service, and developed by Kalmar Verkstad during the 1980s. The Class 71 are nearly identical to the NSB Class 73, save the 71-series lacking one car and tilting mechanism, and a different interior. Both have chosen to not use the original locomotive design, instead installing one powered bogie in each car. The 71-series is built for a maximum operating speed of , but has achieved higher speeds in test runs.

Among the features are pressure-tight cabins to allow comfortable travel through tunnels at high speeds, and step-free access to the cars. Instead steps are inside the trains; this has been criticized to be in non-conformance with public accessibility policy. The multiple units can only operate in fixed sets of three cars, but up to three sets can be run in multiple. Flytoget regularly uses double sets to create six-car trains. In 2008–09, all units will be refit with an additional middle car by Bombardier Transportation, increasing capacity by 40% to 244 seats.

Unlike the Class 71, the sister trains in service with NSB were prone to trouble, having to operate on hundred-year-old infrastructure on cross-mountain services; the Class 71 has more lenient operating conditions thanks to better infrastructure. The only incident to ground all the BM71 trains occurred on the 17 June 2000 at Nelaugmarker when a Class 73 train operated by NSB derailed because of stress on the axle. Unlike the NSB trains, the airport express trains were back in service the next day, while the 73-series had to wait another month. On 24 January 2004 a unit had to be taken out of service due to smoke from a stressed bearing—within days the bearings were replaced on all units.

References




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