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TRAVEL

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

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IMMIGRATION

Prime Minister rejects calls to bring deported Afghans back to Norway

Prime Minister Erna Solberg said on Monday that the government would not be bringing deported Afghans back to Norway in light of the deteriorating situation in the country.

Prime Minister rejects calls to bring deported Afghans back to Norway
Solberg has rejected calls to return Afghans that have been deported to Norway. Photo by: Tobias Schwarz / AFP

On Monday, the Norwegian PM rejected calls from the leaders of the Socialist Left Party and the Red Party to bring Afghans who have been deported after their asylum applications were turned down back to Norway.

Both Socialist Left Party leader Audun Lysbakken and Red Party leader Bjørnar Moxnes told newspaper VG that they believed that those who were deported to Afghanistan after their asylum applications were rejected should be brought back to Norway after the Taliban seized control of Kabul on Monday.

Since 2015, Norway has deported 843 people to Afghanistan who had their applications for asylum in Norway rejected.

Solberg said on Monday that she doesn’t think it is relevant to help any of the rejected applicants to return to Norway as the authorities who processed their cases concluded that it was safe to return the asylum seekers to Afghanistan.

“Those who have been returned have no personal reason to be persecuted by the Taliban or by others,” Solberg added.

The prime minister said that international cooperation would be required to help those fearing their safety following the Taliban takeover.

Labour leader Jonas Gahr Støre has echoed Solberg’s view and said there currently isn’t a need to bring those who have had their requests for asylum rejected back to Norway. However, he did add that the situation could change in the future, requiring a shift in stance.

“The Taliban’s take over does not automatically change that question. Instead, it must be assessed based on how the situation develops in the future,” Støre said.

In July, Norway paused all deportations to Afghanistan after the conflict between the Taliban and Afghan forces intensified.

READ MORE: Norway suspends deportation of rejected asylum seekers to Afghanistan

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