The package was due to be awarded in the autumn of 2021, with services beginning with the December 2022 timetable change. The package will now be tendered in January 2021 and awarded in early 2022, with services beginning with the December 2023 timetable change.

The change has been approved by the Ministry of Transport and Communications.

“A delay will reduce the overall uncertainty for the train operators, and help us get good and fair competition for our passengers,” says the head of the Railway Directorate, Ms Kirsti Slotsvik. “Our task is to facilitate fair competition, which will provide the best possible offer to passengers at the best cost.

“We have succeeded with this with the three traffic packages assigned so far. With the new risk picture we have now, we see that it can be difficult to achieve these gains with the current plan for Traffic Package 4.”

Covid-19 has reduced passenger numbers by up to 90% in Norway.

“There has been a great deal of uncertainty, particularly related to what will be normal demand and income levels for the future train operators, and whether operators have the resources and finances to prioritise participation in a new competition,” Slotsvik says. “This comes on top of uncertainty around the timing of when new infrastructure can be put into operation.

“Several major development projects are underway on the railway in Eastern Norway, many of which will be realised during the contract period. Although we can deal with the uncertainty related to when new infrastructure can be used, we believe that a postponement will also contribute to improving the basis of the competition, and thus the competition itself, because operators can better take account of the many of the positive effects of these investments.”

The directorate says Package 4 is considerably larger and more complex than the three packages awarded so far. As well as including more services and higher passenger numbers, it is also based on a comprehensive route, price and ticket cooperation agreement with the counties and public transport companies.

The package includes:

  • local and regional services between Spikkestad/Asker and Lillestrøm (L1)
  • Stabekk/Skøyen - Ski (L2)
  • Oslo S - Jaren (L3)
  • Stabekk - Moss (L21)
  • Skøyen - Mysen/Rakkestad (L22)
  • Oslo S - Halden (R20), and
  • Oslo S - Gjøvik (R30).

A total of five packages are being awarded for passenger services in Norway.

Traffic package 1 South was awarded to Go-Ahead Norway in October 2018, starting in December 2019; Traffic package 2 North was awarded to SJ Norway in June 2019, starting in June 2020; and Traffic package 3 West was awarded to Vy Train in December 2019, with traffic due to start in December 2020.

The roadmap for Traffic Package 5, which includes parts of inter-city routes, has not yet been established.