Norwegian State Railways - History - 1996 To Present

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1996 To Present

On 1 December 1996 the largest structural change in Norwegian railway history in the 20th century occurred. NSB was split in three separate governmental agencies. The ownership, maintenance and construction of the track was transformed to the newly created government agency Jernbaneverket while a new Norwegian Railway Inspectorate was created to supervise all railway operations in the country. NSB was renamed NSB BA and created as a limited company, wholly owned by the Norwegian Ministry of Transport and Communications. Also, NSB was made a corporation, with NSB Biltrafikk (now Nettbuss) and NSB Eiendom (now ROM Eiendomsutvikling) made subsidiaries of NSB.

In 1998 the new Oslo Airport, Gardermoen opened, replacing the old Oslo Airport, Fornebu that had been too small since the 1980s. Part of the political compromise to build the new airport was a twofold consequence for NSB. First of all it was decided that the new airport was to have an as environmentally friendly ground infrastructure as possible, resulting in the decision to build a high speed railway on the 56 km stretch from Oslo Central Station to the airport, which would only take 19 minutes. But at the same time it was a political demand that the new airport not cost the tax payers any money, and it was decided that the entire construction was to be financed with loans. The result was that the airport was to be financed, built and operated by the Airport Authority subsidiary Oslo Lufthavn AS while the rail connection was to be financed, built and operated by the NSB subsidiary NSB Gardermobanen. But problems arose during the construction of Gardermobanen because of a leak in the tunnel Romeriksporten, resulting in major budget overruns and a delay in the opening of the tunnel. Still, Norway's first high speed railway line opened on time on 8 October 1998 at the same time as the new airport, though Romeriksporten was not opened until 22 October 1999, more than a year after its scheduled opening. The service is operated using 16 custom built Class 71 electric multiple units, with a capacity for 168 passengers and maximum speed of 210 km/h.

NSB tried to modernize itself in the late 1990s through the acquisition of new rolling stock and a new brand image. The first stock to be delivered were 22 El 18 electric locomotives. These were to take over the passenger train traffic in Southern Norway while the El 16s and El 14s were moved to the freight division and the El 17s were scrapped, relegated to shunting or sold to Flåmsbana. The new locomotives were capable of speeds up to 200 km/h. For the diesel lines NSB attempted to buy 12 Di 6 from Siemens, but had to return them after they failed to operate sufficiently in the Northern Norwegian cold. NSB also decided to rebrand itself with three district brands: NSB Signatur (express trains), NSB Agenda (regional trains) and NSB Puls (local trains). At the same time NSB ordered new electric multiple units, first of all for the new Airport Express Train service, Class 71. This was followed up with 16 new Signatur trains of Class 73 that were to be used on the express services on Bergensbanen, Dovrebanen and Sørlandsbanen and equipped with tilting technology. This was an attempt to create a high speed railway service using existing rail track, though the operating times between Oslo and the terminuses were only reduced by about an hour. These trains were painted blue and grey, and were the first non-red trains to be operated by NSB in decades. At the same time NSB announced the introduction of the Agenda concept, that was to replace the NSB InterCity Express services and the diesel services. While the Class 70s were simply repainted, the diesel services on Nordlandsbanen, Raumabanen and Rørosbanen were upgrades with 15 new Class 93 units in 2001, though criticized for lack of comfort, have increased the speed on the railways. NSB also discontinued night train services on Raumabanen and Rørosbanen. NSB also received, starting in 2002 36 new electrical local trains, Class 72. These were painted grey/green (for the use of the brand name Puls) and were put in service around Oslo and Stavanger. NSB has now discontinued the use of brand names on its rail products.

By 2002 the conservative-liberal government wanted to further deregulate the Norwegian railway sector, and made NSB a public limited company NSB AS on 1 July. NSB had been through a process of making the company more of a corporation, with the IT section made the subsidiary Arrive and the maintenance transformed to Mantena. NSB also purchased part of the Swedish Tågkompaniet while the old freight train section NSB Gods was transformed to CargoNet. 45% of the subsidiary was then sold to the Statens Järnvägar successor Green Cargo. In 2004 the government also split NSB Gardermobanen in two, deleting the companies debt, transferring the track it owned to Jernbaneverket and the train operations to a new, government-owned enterprise, Flytoget.

Read more about this topic:  Norwegian State Railways, History

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