SJ beat incumbent operator Vy Tog (formerly NSB) to win the package, the first tendered since the market was opened in the country, with a stronger financial bid. SJ already operates a number of cross-border services to Norway, including to Narvik - Kiruna - Stockholm and Oslo - Karlstad - Stockholm.
The package will be run by SJ Norway, a separate subsidiary of SJ, under the Nord brand. This includes:
- long-distance trains and overnight trains on the Trondheim - Bodø Nordlandsbanen
- long-distance trains and overnight trains on the Oslo - Trondheim Dovrebanen
- Bodø - Rognan regional services
- Lundamo/Melhus - Trondheim - Steinkjer (Trønderbanen) regional services
- Dombås - Åndalsnes (Raumabanen) regional services
- Heimdal - Trondheim - Storlien (Meråkerbanen) regional services, and
- Hamar - Røros - Trondheim regional services.
However, the Covid-19 situation has forced SJ Norway to restrict the number of seats available to adhere to social distancing requirements. Only every other seat is being sold, although families are still able to sit together.
Limited operation is also in place over the summer on some services, including:
- overnight Trondheim - Oslo service only operating on Fridays and Sundays
- only two daily departures the Trondheim - Bodø line, and
- no services on the Meråker line between Trondheim S and Storlien.
“There is much to be done before a new train operator can offer its services in Norway,” says Mr Ali Syed Ahsan, infrastructure manager Bane Nor’s customer manager for SJ Norway. “I have been working closely with SJ Norway since contract signing in summer 2019 to succeed with the ‘onboarding’ of SJ Norway. Bane Nor and SJ Norway have a common goal of providing good transport services for passengers so that more people take the train. Good cooperation is important to working towards that goal.”
SJ Norway will invest NKr 5.5bn ($US 593.2m) in the Trøndelag region, where the subsidiary will be based, over the next five years.
State-owned rolling stock company Norske Tog has provided 14 new Stadler Flirt EMUs for the services. Bane Nor will upgrade the lines in Trøndelag, including electrifying the Trondheim - Stjørdal and Meråker lines, and will also construct new stabling and maintenance facilities for the Flirt EMUs.
“We will do our best to succeed, including investing billions,” says Bane Nor executive vice-president, Mr Bjørn Kristiansen. “This is the beginning of a customer relationship that we want to take good care of.”