Strike leaves Norway’s trains at a standstill: here are your rights as a passenger

Thousands of passengers across Norway are experiencing delays on Thursday as a result of industrial action.

Strike leaves Norway’s trains at a standstill: here are your rights as a passenger
File photo: Softulka/Depositphotos

Rail, bus, tram and Oslo Metro (T-bane) traffic are all affected by the strikes.

The industrial action, which began at 12pm on Thursday and was scheduled to continue until 2pm, is in protest at EU rail regulations.

Norwegian Rail Drivers’ Union (Norsk Lokomotivmannsforbund, NLF) chairperson Rolf Ringdal told NRK the strikes were in protest “against implementing the EU’s fourth rail package in Norway”.

The EU programme includes provisions which will make it easier to approve new trains and give safety certificates to train makers, according to the Norwegian Ministry of Transport.

NLF is against the new EU regulations, which it says will make Norway’s rail less democratic by reducing the extent to which voters can influence the country’s railways.

“The EU wants to make it mandatory to have competition in public transport. We think that will weaken a coherent rail service in Norway,” Ringdal told NRK.

Opposition MPs in support of the strike, including Labour leader Jonas Gahr Støre, were present at Eidsvolls Plass in Oslo to give speeches, the broadcaster reports.

“What is happening to Norway’s railway now is a step in the wrong direction. It is being pulverized and split up. A country with our geography needs strong control and coherent politics for the railway,” Støre told NRK.

The Norwegian Consumer Council (Forbrukerrådet) has advised passengers to check travel information with rail or public transport operators and to go to departure points unless advised otherwise.

If trains do not depart, passengers are entitled to a refund on tickets or price concessions on season tickets.

If delays over 60 minutes occur, passengers may be entitled to provision of food and drink. This depends on certain circumstances (such as whether food is available on board trains or whether the operator is able to provide food at a reasonable and fair cost).

Passengers can also make claims for alternative transport costs or costs of food purchased themselves due to cancellations or delays.

The consumer council advises passengers to contact the relevant company (such as national rail operator Vy, formerly known as NSB) to make claims and Forbrukerrådet if further advice is necessary.

Claims can be made with Vy via this link.

Complaints can be made to the Public Transportation Complaint Handling Body for rail (Transportklagenemnda for tog).

Further strikes are possible later this month, with the Norwegian Rail Union (NJF) having confirmed plans to strike from 2-4pm on Thursday October 31st, NRK reports.


Could Oslo-Copenhagen overnight train be set for return?

A direct overnight rail service between the Norwegian and Danish capitals has not operated since 2001, but authorities in Oslo are considering its return.

Norway’s transport minister Knut Arild Hareide has asked the country’s railway authority Jernbanedirektoratet to investigate the options for opening a night rail connection between Oslo and Copenhagen.

An answer is expected by November 1st, after which the Norwegian government will decide whether to go forward with the proposal to directly link the two Nordic capitals by rail.

Jernbanedirektoratet is expected to assess a timeline for introducing the service along with costs, market and potential conflicts with other commercial services covering the route.

“I hope we’ll secure a deal. Cross-border trains are exciting, including taking a train to Malmö, Copenhagen and onwards to Europe,” Hareide told Norwegian broadcaster NRK.

The minister said he envisaged either a state-funded project or a competition awarding a contract for the route’s operation to the best bidder.

A future Oslo-Copenhagen night train rests on the forthcoming Jernbanedirektoratet report and its chances of becoming a reality are therefore unclear. But the Norwegian rail authority earlier this year published a separate report on ways in which passenger train service options from Norway to Denmark via Sweden can be improved.

“We see an increasing interest in travelling out of Norway by train,” Jernbanedirektoratet project manager  Hanne Juul said in a statement when the report was published in January.

“A customer study confirmed this impression and we therefore wish to make it simpler to take the train to destinations abroad,” Juul added.

Participants in the study said that lower prices, fewer connections and better information were among the factors that would encourage them to choose the train for a journey abroad.

Norway’s rail authority also concluded that better international cooperation would optimise cross-border rail journeys, for example by making journey and departure times fit together more efficiently.

The Femahrn connection between Denmark and Germany, currently under construction, was cited as a factor which could also boost the potential for an overland rail connection from Norway to mainland Europe.

Night trains connected Oslo to Europe via Copenhagen with several departures daily as recently as the late 1990s, but the last such night train between the two cities ran in 2001 amid dwindling demand.

That trend has begun to reverse in recent years due in part to an increasing desire among travellers to select a greener option for their journey than flying.

Earlier this summer, a new overnight train from Stockholm to Berlin began operating. That service can be boarded by Danish passengers at Høje Taastrup near Copenhagen.

READ ALSO: What you need to know about the new night train from Copenhagen to Germany