SWEDISH national passenger operator SJ and regional transport manager Tåg i Bergslagen (TiB) have agreed to terminate SJ’s contract to operate services on the Bergslagen network three years early in December 2023 instead of December 2026 due to the negative impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic.

TiB, which is owned by the Dalarna, Örebro, Västmanland and Gävleborg regions, awarded SJ a 10-year contract in 2015 to operate regional passenger services on the network from December 2016, with this expected to generate revenues of SKr 2bn ($US 229.8m) over the duration of the contract.

The contract covers the operation of around 3 million train-km per year on six routes, previously operated by Tågkompaniet, comprising:

  • Mora - Borlänge
  • Borlänge - Västerås
  • Gävle - Mjölby
  • Örebro - Laxå
  • Gävle - Hallsberg, and
  • Ludvika - Västerås.

However, SJ business manager, Mr Martin Drakenberg, told IRJ that due to the effects of the pandemic in 2020 and 2021, and with the expected negative effects on travel in the coming years, TiB and SJ agreed to end the contract early.

Swedish news website Jarnvagar reports that 90% of the revenue for the contract was reliant on passenger numbers, which fell by up to 50% during the pandemic. Drakenberg says SJ nor any other rail operator in Sweden was given compensation by the government to cover the shortfall in ticket revenues.

"After negotiations with SJ due to the effects from the pandemic we agreed upon a financial compensation and that our agreement got shortened," says TiB CEO, Ms Maja Rapp, who was appointed in May after previously serving as business manager at SJ.

"Due to the fact that the number of travellers has been halved during the pandemic and that it is uncertain how the numbers of travellers will develop the closest years, even though we already see a positive development, it became natural to review the agreement.

"We are now starting the work with the new tender process. What changes or similarities there will be is too early to say. The next step is to see what the market says."

Drakenberg says SJ will take part in the new tender process.

“Hopefully the new contract will be based on what we know now about traveller behaviour and, since the future is uncertain, also has ways for both operators and TiB to share risks as well as gains,” he says. “Since we share an interest to win back the customers to the most environmental way to travel, risk and gains has to be shared.”