To help build a better railway for its customers, the Norwegian government is reforming the railway sector, as detailed in White Paper no. 27 (2014-2015) On The Right Track. The reform will transform the structure of the sector to ensure clearer division of responsibility, better coordination of service and infrastructure improvements, better aligned incentives and a more customer focused industry.
Government responsibilities in the sector will be transferred to a single, strong governmental body. This change will ensure better co-ordination in the railway sector, as well as between rail and other public transport modes. The creation of one government body to coordinate the sector will also support more integrated long term planning and development of the national railway network.
The railway infrastructure, which will be a target for investment and improvement, will be managed by a state-owned infrastructure manager. This body will will be tasked with the responsibility of operating, maintaining and building railway infrastructure. To ensure predictability for the infrastructure manager, the body will enter into long-term concession agreements with the state. The infrastructure manager will also be responsible for the management of all railway property in Norway. This will contribute to an improved, more efficient and more effective development of stations and transportation hubs. To ensure the continued development of the national rail infrastructure, necessary resources must be allocated and reorganisation accomplished.
Parts of the operation and maintenance of the railway infrastructure are already competitively tendered, with positive results. The government envisages that more operational and maintenance services will be competitively tendered over time, and with longer-term agreements in place.
Competition to ensure improved passenger rail services
The intention behind the reform is to ensure a better railway for its customers through improved rail services. Through the competitive tendering for passenger services on Gjøvikbanen, and the open access competition in the rail freight market, society has seen positive results from competition. Passenger numbers increased on Gjøvikbanen in the competitive regime, and customer satisfaction has been consistently high since. At the same time the route has seen more trains at a lower cost to the government.
The government plans to introduce competition to more passenger rail services, with the aim of bringing positive elements of competition into a bigger part of the railway sector. This will help make it more sustainable, efficient and innovative. The competition for passenger services will be regulated through competitive tendering of public service obligations, in which the government will ensure continued provision of attractive rail services on routes that are not neccessarily economically viable on their own.
Concerning railway sector employees
The current employees in the railway sector are the single most important resource in ensuring a successful reform. The government will emphasise an inclusive and predictable process for employees. The labour organisations have been informed of the main features of the planned changes, and will be heard in the process to implement the reform.