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Nordics Co-ordinate Non-Domestic Services

With the European railways regrouping, the little Nordic players don't want to be trampled by the giants

Just before Christmas, the Nordic train operating companies DSB, NSB, and SJ announced they had formed a marketing alliance to coordinate their non-domestic services. The alliance will co-operate on a bilateral basis with other railways for sending goods to continental Europe.

The driving force behind this development is probably the ailing freight division of DSB. But as important is the fact that an almost continual regulatory upheaval in Europe is making open access more and more real. The Nordics want both to take advantage of the opportunity and consolidate their home market in face of the threat.

Danish DSB forms the key of the alliance since Denmark separates Sweden and Norway from the rest of the continent. For decades, DSB helped co-ordinate the ferries, trains and marshalling yards to send freight to the continent. Now that work will be eliminated with the completion of the Great Belt fixed link this summer, and the Íresund fixed link by the turn of the century. All but one locomotive change will be avoided between Olso and Hamburg, a distance of almost 1000 km.

With a large chunk of its business going the way of its ferries, DSB last spring started negotiations with several national freight divisions, with the aim of creating a pan-European freight railway to compete with the giants DBAG and SNCF. But being a transit country isn't the only reason for DSB's lust for getting in bed. Denmark is basically too small and too run by the government to have an independent, efficient freight railway.

But as a whole, things are looking quite peachy for the nordic players and their new marketing alliance. The freight freeways will let them compete for more business currently being carried by trucks. Cementing the co-operation and joint ventures with other railways that SJ has pioneered, the Nordics will secure access to almost all of Europe and a place for themselves in the increasingly competitive rail services market. Infrastructure projects in Denmark and Sweden such as new bridges, electrification projects and modifications for running heavier trains mean that more freight can be moved with greater regularity and fewer resources.

By improving service to Nordic customers, co-operating with other railways, and getting an edge over road traffic, the three will have room to grow from a secure customer base.

Click for press releases from DSB, NSB, and SJ, and earlier FW Rail News items on DSB and the freight freeways.

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