|State orders end to train woes|
| [30.08.2007, 11:22pm, Thu. GMT]|
|The heads of both the Norwegian state railway (NSB) and the state agency in charge of the tracks (Jernbaneverket) were called into the Transport Minister's office on Wednesday and were due back on Thursday, ordered to present a clear plan for ending the chaos that's disrupting service. Transport Minister Liv Signe Navarsete vowed that the management of NSB "won't get any rest until they have regained control over the situation." She added that "the worst that can happen now is if people give up on the train system." She was expecting both NSB boss Einar Enger and railroad boss Steinar Killi of Jernbaneverket back in her office on Thursday, 24 hours after they were ordered to find a way to get the system back on track.NSB has blamed serious staffing shortages for the train delays and cancellations that have stranded thousands of commuters and frustrated thousands more. Newspaper VG reported Thursday that around 3,000 train departures have been cancelled just in the last eight months.|
With local elections looming in less than two weeks, state officials are keen to fix any problems that may cause more problems for their parties' candidates. Navarsete's message was thus unusually clear: "Get out of today's situation and ensure that NSB's most important customers, passengers in the Oslo metropolitan area, are offered reliable service through the winter."
"We can't have the situation we have now," Navarsete, of the Center Party, told newspaper Aftenposten. "At the same time, I'm asking passengers to be patient." She doesn't want them to start driving their cars to work.
NSB is paying would-be train engineers while they study, in return for commitments that they'll work for NSB for at least two years after graduation. Navarsete also wants NSB to reduce the number of experienced engineers who are quitting, and step up recruitment efforts.
One 52-year-old train engineer, however, told Aftenposten that he quit after 30 years with NSB because he was so frustrated over working conditions. He said, for example, that he was often embarrassed to operate trains because they were so filthy, in turn because of inadequate cleaning personnel. "NSB is a sick company," he said.
The trouble comes just when NSB is seeing record large ridership, because of environmental concerns, traffic congestion on local roads, and the high prices of petrol and parking in Oslo.
Aftenposten English Web Desk