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In this blog post, we’re taking a look at the rail infrastructure in Norway.

The Norwegian rail infrastructure consists of about 4200 kilometres railway, 730 tunnels and 2577 bridges. Up until December 2016, Norske Statsbaner (NSB) was responsible for all rail-related operating initiatives. NSB was split up and delegated in January 2017, which makes NSB a train operator today. The infrastructural part of NSB was named BaneNOR and is considered an independent rail operator.

Maintenance of the rail infrastructure

Up until the establishment of BaneNOR, the Norwegian rail infrastructure has been characterized by poor maintenance processes leading to expensive maintenance initiatives to put out fires. Moreover, the uptimes only got worse as time went on.

In 2005, a budget of 16,5 bil. nkr was appointed to the maintenance and operation of the rail infrastructure – this is more than three times the amount than in previous periods. Despite the larger budget, the uptime got even worse, going from 5200 delay hours in 2015 to 9506 in 2015. This, of course, has to be seen in the light of growing traffic rates, but it has been admitted that large amounts of the budget went to new investments and less to maintaining the existing infrastructure. Moreover, the infrastructure is aged, which combined with bad weather conditions and the insufficient maintenance strategies make for a generally poor infrastructure and bad uptimes.

Generally, the infrastructure is not ready for the future. Only 30% of the infrastructure is able to handle train speed over 100 km/h. The estimated budget for modernizing the rail infrastructure is set to be around 250-300 billion NKR.

Missing overall overview and poor resource management

Riksrevisjonen (The National Audit Office of Norway) researched the organization in charge of maintaining the infrastructure (Jernbaneverket), and the results in 2016 were:

  • The management was unsuccessful in securing the right management tools, that could support the efficient delegation of resources.
  • Jernbaneverket has insufficient documentation on the condition of the railway

Moreover, it was concluded, that a more precise information on the condition of the railway could be of great help to plan, prioritize and overall to optimize the maintenance of the rail infrastructure. The research also showed that the local departments had good information on the condition of the local infrastructure, but this information was not documented and shared between departments.

Geological and climatical challenges

Because of the geological circumstances in Norway, heavy rainfalls and stormy weather is a threat to the infrastructure. Landslides and debris flows are the main threats, and there are around 40 cases of damage on the rail infrastructure yearly caused by geological and climatical conditions.

New maintenance strategies

As mentioned, the infrastructural area of the rail industry was delegated to the new organization, Bane NOR. They have been presenting new ambitions for the maintenance and they have even been foreshadowing a ‘digital revolution’, which in practice consists of a department named ‘Smart Vedlikehold’. The objective is to optimize maintenance strategies with new technologies and through condition monitoring. The goal is to catch faults before they occur.

A couple of years into the process, BaneNOR is ready to present results from condition monitoring initiatives. By monitoring 850 switches, they were able to prevent around 170 track lockouts and thereby assuring better uptime (BaneNOR).

This is a clear indication of the efficiency potential of digitizing condition monitoring processes.

To sum up, the articles that have been discussed in this article indicate that the rail infrastructure in Norway has been neglected in the past. This has resulted in less than optimal uptimes and worn infrastructure. But the newly established rail operator has a turn planned and is looking to modernize the rail infrastructure using new and innovative methods.

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