Why Norway’s railways could be forced to open up for new competition

Frazer Norwell
Frazer Norwell - [email protected]
Why Norway’s railways could be forced to open up for new competition
Norway will be forced to open its railway contracts rather than directly award them under EU rules. Pictured is the terminus at Bergen train station. Photo by Vidar Nordli-Mathisen on Unsplash

Norway will be required to open up its rail contracts for other firms to bid on towards the end of the year, something the government has previously said it would halt.


European Commission regulations mean that Norway will need to open up for rail tenders from December 25th 2023, rather than directly award contracts to firms.

This is because of the EU's fourth railway package. The same regulations entered into force in Norway on June 1st 2022.

However, up until now, the country has been using exception options to directly award passenger train contracts in eastern Norway.

Under the current exemptions, which expire on December 24th, opening for tenders can be avoided when directly allocating contracts to public train companies. Norway's Vy and Flytoget are two examples. Sweden's SJ also operates in parts of Norway.

Norway's government has long wanted a permanent exemption from the EU rules. In 2021, as part of the Hurdal agreement it was formed on, the government pledged to be permanently exempted from the EU's fourth railway package.


While Norway is not an EU member, it is a member of the EEA (European Economic Area). 

The European Commission has said it has yet to receive letters or any other requests about being exempt from the railway package, Norwegian newswire NTB reports.

Kjell Brataas, a senior advisor in the Norwegian Ministry of Transport, told NTB that Norway had communicated a desire for exemption in February of 2022.

"In this meeting, Norway's representatives received positive feedback from the commission that they are open to discussing in more detail how the exception rules can be applied with regard to Norwegian circumstances," Brataas said.

"We are now considering further dialogue about this," he added.


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