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The Office of the Auditor General’s investigation of the effect of major investments in the rail network on rail services

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Summary

Background and objectives of the investigation

Increased use of rail transport is an important factor in achieving the objective of a more efficient and environmentally friendly transport system. In order for people to use trains, rail services must be attractive compared with other modes of transport. During the period 2005–2016, funding for investments in the railway rose from NOK 1.4 billion to around NOK 10 billion per year. Seven major investment projects collectively amounting to over NOK 20 billion have been completed, and many other major projects are at the planning or construction phase.

The aim of the investigation was to assess how the major investments in the railway network contribute to attractive rail services, particularly in the form of reduced travel times, improved predictability and an increase in service frequency.

Findings

Investments do not result in substantial effects until major timetable changes have been implemented.

On routes where major investments have been carried out, rail services have been improved through the annual timetable changes. However, it is not until the investments are combined with the introduction of substantial timetable changes and new trains that rail services have improved significantly for passengers. It has so far taken around 15 years before major changes to the timetable have been implemented.

Management has had little focus on extracting benefits from the investments.

The Norwegian National Rail Administration has paid little attention to what ongoing improvements in rail services the major investment projects could have contributed to. Rail services could have been improved earlier had the management focussed more on extracting benefits as infrastructure capacity was expanded.

The number of people travelling by train has not risen by more than the number of people travelling by car.

Rail services are taking market share from the car on certain routes, but overall growth in car travel is outstripping growth in rail travel.

Essential projects to extract benefits have not formed an integral part of the investment projects.

The effects of the investments have been delayed because work on signalling systems has not formed an integral part of the projects. In addition, projects such as the installation of new passing loops and the construction of new infrastructure for turning and stabling trains were not considered during the planning process. This has meant that rail services have been improved later than they might have been, because minor projects have not been completed when the upgraded routes have been taken into use.

Recommendations

  • The Office of the Auditor General recommends that the Ministry of Transport:
    ensure that timetable planning improves rail services as the capacity of the infrastructure is expanded
  • ensure that the Norwegian Railway Directorate and Bane NOR SF are well-coordinated, so that factors which impact on the scope to extract benefits from the investments form an integrated part of the projects
  • ensure that major investment projects have clear, scheduled and verifiable objectives as regards how rail services can be improved
Ministry/ministries:

Riksrevisjonen, Storgata 16, P.O. Box 8130 Dep, 0032 Oslo, Norway

Phone: +47 22 24 10 00

Org.nr: 974 760 843