THE Norwegian Railway Directorate and state-owned operator Vy Group have signed contracts for the operation of the Eastern Norway group of passenger services.

Following a change of government in 2021, the new administration announced that the previous policy of putting passenger operating contracts out to tender would be replaced with a negotiated direct award procedure.

The three contracts awarded by competitive tender before October 2021 to GoAhead, Vy Group and and SJ Norge, a subsidiary of Swedish national operator SJ, were not affected by the policy change.

Airport rail link operator Flytoget, also owned by the Norwegian government, had also participated in the direct award process. Vy Group was invited to negotiate for Eastern Norway 1 contract, while Flytoget was invited to negotiate for Eastern Norway 2.

However, the Railway Directorate later decided to award the combined contracts to Vy Group, which it said would result in a saving of NKr 1bn ($US 93m) when compared with awarding separate contracts to Flytoget and Vy Group.

Flytoget has announced it will cease operations when its track access agreement to operate the Oslo - Gardermoen Airport service ends in 2028, but also proposed operating a new Asker - Lillestrøm service from 2026. This was rejected by the Railway Directorate in late March, citing the need to maximise use of limited capacity in the cross-city tunnels under Oslo.

The Eastern Norway contracts signed with Vy Group have a total value of NKr 21bn over 10 years and cover the operation of 80% all passenger traffic in Norway. Additional services are specified in the new contracts, which represent a saving of around 40% on the current annual cost of NKr 3.4bn of operating fewer trains on the same routes.

The new contracts anticipate higher revenue through higher growth in passenger traffic growth plus the opportunity to take over traffic to Gardermoen Airport that is currently handled in part by Flytoget.

The main improvements planned are:

  • introduction of an hourly frequency on route RE30 Oslo - Gjøvik during 2024, when the new signalling system has been commissioned
  • an increase from 30 to 15-minute service frequency on route L2 Ski - Stabekk on Saturdays from December 2023
  • services on route R21 Moss - Oslo S will be extended to Stabekk from December 2023
  • more off-peak departures at weekends from December 2023 on the following routes: R13 Drammen - Dal; R14 Asker - Kongsvinger; RE10 Drammen - Lillehammer; and RE11 Skien - Eidsvoll
  • four trains per hour between Oslo and Tønsberg from December 2025
  • a 10-minute frequency between Drammen and Oslo from December 2025
  • two trains an hour between Hamar and Oslo from December 2027, and
  • nine departures an hour for all passengers between Oslo and Gardermoen Airport from 2028 when Flytoget’s track access agreement expires.

The contracts also specify the introduction of new trains when these are supplied by Norske Tog, Norway’s state-owned rolling stock leasing company.