NORWAY’s new Labour-led coalition government has written to the Norwegian Railway Directorate asking it to stop further competitive tendering of rail services, implementing plans announced in October after it unseated the previous Conservative administration which had been in power for eight years.

The directorate has been commissioned to cancel the competition for Traffic Package 4, and instead start working on the direct allocation of the offer, within the framework of current regulations, by December 25 2023. The same applies to Traffic Package 5.

“I will not now place restrictions on the Norwegian Railway Directorate’s further work with the direct award,” says Mr Jon-Ivar Nygård, minister of transport and communications. “We will consider various alternatives to achieve an attractive train offer, so that more people can travel in an environmentally friendly way. Direct allocation of the train offer shall build up under this.”

Traffic Package 4 is for passenger services on the Østfold line, the Gjøvik line and the local trains on the Spikkestad - Lillestrøm and Stabekk - Ski routes. The plan had been to sign a contract with the winning bidders in March 2022, with operations starting in December 2023. The Directorate announced in July 2020 that it was postponing the awarding of this package by a year to give operators more certainty following the coronavirus pandemic.

Traffic Package 5 includes inter-city trains on the Skien - Eidsvoll and Drammen - Lillehammer routes, local trains on the Kongsberg - Eidsvoll, Drammen - Dal and Asker - Kongsvinger routes, and services between Porsgrunn and Notodden. Tendering for this package was delayed by a year in March following the decision to delay the awarding of package 4. The directorate planned to award the contract in early 2024 with operations beginning in December 2025.

Nygård says the government is also concerned about how efficiently the train service in Eastern Norway will be operated. He said the passenger train offer in the region is not exposed to competition as it is in the rest of Norway, with Vy operating via a direct award agreed with the Directorate. Flytoget also has a direct award contract for a service on the Asker - Oslo Airport route.

The Norwegian government confirmed that agreements with Go-Ahead Nordic, which operates Traffic Package 1 (South), SJ Norway, which operates Traffic Package 2 (North) and Vy Tog, which operates Traffic Package 3 (West) are fixed.