In 2017, it is twenty five years since our story began. The story of the Airport Express Train is about clear goals and sky-high ambitions, about a slightly troubled start and a very good continuation. This is our story.
Actually, the modern history of Oslo’s Airport Express Train did not start till 1998. In a way, everything that happened before that, was part of the preparatory phase. We were a new company with an opportunity to do things differently.
Admittedly, we set out from an excellent starting point. Yet this alone would not have been enough. We needed people who wanted to achieve things - a team who were willing to work hard and give that little extra, every single day. Together we have tried and failed, tried again, learnt our lessons and succeeded.
In 2016 a total of 6.5 million people travelled by the Airport Express Train. We achieved a punctuality rate of 96 per cent and a customer satisfaction rate of 97 per cent. People have bestowed an enormous amount of trust in us, which is something we will never take for granted. We are constantly working to become a little better. We never give up. For at the end of the day, today’s story about the Oslo Airport Express Train is only the beginning. We hope you will join us for the next chapter.
When on 8 October 1992 the Norwegian parliament decided on Gardermoen as the site of the new main airport, it was also decided that trains would provide the most important feeder service. Of course. A new high-speed train would be a competitive, pioneering and environmentally friendly means of transport. The parliamentarians stipulated that the development and operation of this railway should be profitable and provide a 7.5 per cent return on their investment.
On 24 November 1992 a company called NSB Gardermobanen AS was formed and given responsibility for building the new section of railway line. The company was contracted to build a double-track high-speed railway line – the first of its kind in Norway – between Oslo and the city’s main airport, and then onwards to Eidsvoll.
Work started on the construction of the new Gardermoen Line in 1994 – planned for completion in 1999. A total of 66 route kilometres was to be built, including a 13.8-kilometre tunnel – the famous Romeriksporten.
On 1 October 1996 the Norwegian parliament decided that NSB Gardermobanen AS should also be responsible for operating the train services on the new line.
Extensive leaks were discovered in the Romeriksporten tunnel over the spring months. The ponds and lakes in the Østmarka wildlife area above the tunnel saw their water levels dramatically decline. Furthermore, residential properties in the Hellerud area were severely affected by subsidence as a consequence of the declining water table. The Norwegian Water Resources and Energy Directorate imposed strict licensing requirements on the company with respect to permissible volumes of seepage. In the autumn, work commenced on blocking the passage of ground water. Post-injection was chosen as the favoured method. In October it was found that the Rhoca-Gil sealing compound used in the Romeriksporten tunnel, was introducing a toxic substance, acrylamide, to the tunnel effluent. All work in the tunnel was suspended until it was established that the work posed no risk to human health. Shortly afterwards a treatment plant was set up in order to clean the tunnel effluent of acrylamide.
On 10 June the NSB Board of Directors decided to postpone the completion of the Romeriksporten tunnel in order to make sure that sealing works could take place in accordance with NVEs licensing requirements. On 8 October the Gardermo Line was opened as planned for the section north of Lillestrøm, but the Airport Express Train had to be diverted past the Romeriksporten tunnel.
Careful thought was given to the train design from the very start. The trains were intended to be perceived as ultra modern, associated with planes and to blend in with the airport design concept of stone, concrete, metal, glass and light wood.
On 22 August the Romeriksporten tunnel was opened and the Airport Express Train was put into full service. The cost estimate for the construction of the Gardermo railway line was NOK 4.6 billion, with a +/- 20 per cent margin of error. In the end, the total price tag was in the region of NOK 10 billion, but this paid for more than what had originally been envisaged.
The grand total breaks down as follows:
|Construction of the railway line between Etterstad – Eidsvoll||NOK 6.0 billion|
|Additional costs incurred for the Romeriksporten tunnel||NOK 1.3 billion|
|Over-spending on connecting spur track to the Gardermo Line||NOK 0.4 billion|
|Sum total, development of the Gardermo Line||NOK 7.7 billion|
|Procurement of trains and preparing for operation||NOK 1.4 billion|
|Total financial costs||NOK 0.9 billion|
|Total investment||NOK 10.0 billion|
In April the Government put forward its proposals for the loan capital structure, organisation and ownership of a new railway company, NSB Gardermobanen AS. Among other inputs to these proposals was a comprehensive analysis of the whole Gardermo project conducted by the public Mydske Commission. In the autumn of 1999 this commission established that: "The Gardermo Line cannot be run at a commercial profit as promised in the Government’s proposals of 1992". The Government new proposals came before the Norwegian parliament, the Storting, in June, and it was decided that:
- A new company, Flytoget AS, would be formed with total assets to the value of NOK 1,714 million, of which NOK 670 million would be equity capital.
- The infrastructure held by NSB Gardermobanen AS would be transferred to the Norwegian National Rail Administration.
- Track charges would be introduced in order to cover operation and maintenance of the permanent way.
- A dedicated agreement between Flytoget and the Norwegian National Rail Administration would ensure that the line would maintain a high standard.
- "Flytoget AS to be organised as a subsidiary wholly owned by NSB BA and to be bestowed a high degree of autonomy and independence in line with the ideas outlined in Recommendation no. 237 to the Storting (1999-2000). The organisational structure to be reviewed in two years."
With effect from 1 January the company changed its name from NSB Gardermobanen AS to Flytoget AS. The infrastructure was transferred to the Norwegian National Rail Administration and the transition from a railway development company to a train operating company was complete.
Following a pilot project, the company launched ticketless travel for passengers with travel cards issued by SAS, Braathens or Flytoget. As many as 25% of our passengers chose to make use of this service, which was an internationally pioneering initiative.
In line with the decision made by the Norwegian parliament in year 2000, the ownership of Flytoget AS was reviewed in the course of the autumn. 9 December 2002 became a red-letter day for the Norwegian rail industry, as this was the day parliament decided that Flytoget AS should be set up as a separate public corporation under the auspices of the Norwegian Ministry of Transport and Communications with effect from 1 January 2003.
In June 2003, after a long period of running at 160 km/h, Flytoget was awarded permanent approval for running their Airport Express Trains at 210 km/h. The service from Oslo Central Station to Oslo Airport now became a 19-minute journey.
As the first train operator in the world, Flytoget AS launched ticketless travel, offering passengers the opportunity to pay for their journey by a simple swipe of their payment card.
Flytoget was formally put under the wholesale jurisdiction of the Ministry of Trade and Industries.
2004 saw Flytoget running at a profit for the very first time, following growth in air travel and successful rationalisation in the period after year 2000.
The Airport Express Train design was given a face lift, and new uniforms were introduced. In response to a survey undertaken among our passengers the new image was made brighter and warmer.
Flytoget had 16 new intermediate cars delivered, which increased our seating capacity per train from 168 to 244 passengers.
In April 2015 Flytoget AS signed a contract with Spanish train manufacturer CAF for the procurement of 8 new trains. These will be based on CAF’s new high-speed platform, Oaris, but will be customised for Flytoget and our passengers. In other words, they will be well equipped for cold winters as well as hot summers. The new trains will be the first in Norway with a max. speed of 250 km/h. The trains will be put into service as a supplement to our existing 16 train sets and will be delivered in 2018.
In 2016 production commenced of the new train sets that Flytoget ordered in 2015. The new train interiors have been specially designed to meet the high customer service standards that Flytoget always seeks to provide. The new trains will be the first units in Norway with a max. speed of 245 km/h. They will supplement the company’s existing fleet of 16 trains and are scheduled for delivery in 2018. Furthermore, 2016 saw work completed on the new Airport Express Terminal at Oslo Airport. New ticket issuing machines were also installed. These have a new user interface which has been developed in-house by Flytoget in an effort to simplify the automated ticket purchasing process even further.
Both the Airport Express Terminal and the ticket issuing machines have been built to the same high standards of customer service as the new airport express trains. They are intended to give passengers a frictionless travel experience. On 12 December Flytoget extended its services by introducing a fifth hourly departure from Lysaker, Skøyen and Nationaltheatret stations. At the same time, Flytoget increased its service from one to two departures every hour from Stabekk Station.
On 1 December 2016 Flytoget officially introduced the company’s new logo. Updating Flytoget’s visual profile is a necessary part of a major modernisation and renewal process which has seen the company make necessary adjustments to a new digital era.