Transport Round-Up: Step forward Denmark’s Dr Beeching?

Time will tell whether the transport minister will be hailed as a visionary or a wally

Ask a Brit about the history of the railways and don’t be surprised if they grimace at the mention of Dr Beeching. In the 1960s, he closed down thousands of stations, changing the rail map of Britain forever.

And now, Benny Engelbrecht, the transport minister, is threatening to revolutionise Denmark’s railways. The question is whether history will remember him as a visionary or ‘Dr Benny (over the) Hill’.

Bus replacement service!
First off, his ministry has launched a study to assess whether replacing severely dilapidated rails on Østbanen, which runs south from Køge, with modern bus lanes is the best and most cost-effective response.

That’s right, buses! The ministry is considering paving 50 km of railway to create a carriageway for BRT (bus rapid transport) buses, which Engelbrecht describes as a “kind of train on rubber wheels”.

Although the ministry has managed to share the 3 million kroner costs with Region Zealand, criticism is mounting, and it will be interesting to note the results at the end of May.

In its defence, it has been reported that BRT buses are more environmental, as they are more fuel-efficient and leave a smaller carbon footprint than trains.

So like Scalextric?
And secondly, the ministry is currently testing battery-powered trains between Hillerød and Helsingør in northern Zealand, with the intention of introducing them by 2030.

Engelbrecht has told Politiken that his ministry is open to running the trains along all railways without overhead lines – although some MPs question whether it would be too early to discard perfectly adequate diesel trains.

Batteries have come a long way since the days of Scalextric. Japan has been running battery-operated trains since 2014, and Schleswig and Holstein recently ordered 55, with plans to have them up and running in the next two to three years.

Four leading manufactures have put in bids to have their battery trains used – possibly in southern Denmark and over the border into Germany.

Electric car incentive
Venstre and Radikale would like to introduce toll-free travel for electric vehicles travelling across the Storebælt, the bridge that links Funen to Zealand. The parties estimate the measure would cost 255 million kroner over four years up until 2025. The standard charge is 130 kroner. In related news, two new ‘Ultra Fast Chargers’ have been introduced at stations for motorists heading south out of Copenhagen.

Jail for speeding
Extreme speeding could in the future land you in jail for 20 days if new proposals from the Transport Ministry are approved. It recommends the sentence, along with a three-year ban from driving for anyone driving in excess of 200 km/h on motorways, above 160 km/h on rural roads and over 100 km/h in urban areas.

SAS ad a dud
A new SAS ad highlighting how most Scandinavian traits originated abroad, with the central message ‘Travel enriches us’ (see page 18), was withdrawn following an avalanche of criticism in mid-February. MPs and online commenters condemned the ad as “devilish nonsense” or “self-hatred”.

Fewer mobile users
Rigspolitiet reports that 21.5 percent fewer motorists are using their mobile phones whilst driving following the introduction of new legislation last September, which punishes offenders with a clip on their licence. Three clips results in a ban from driving. In related news, a third of cyclists aged 18-65 regularly use their phones in traffic, according to a Epion survey for Rådet for Sikker Trafik. Cyclists aged 18 to 35 are the most likely to offend.

More deaths on roads
Some 205 people lost their lives in traffic in Denmark during 2019 – a significant rise on the 171 who died in 2018, and 175 in 2017. Vejdirektoratet – which several years ago set itself a target of no more than 120 deaths, not least because there were 406 deaths in 2008 – blamed the rise on motorists driving at increasing speeds.

Paint your wagons!
Food wagons are returning to DSB trains on selected services – only this time it will be somebody with a backpack and a limited range. In collaboration with 7-Eleven, the service is being tried out on 15-18 services a day between Copenhagen and Fredericia. DSB withdrew the wagons back in 2014 because they were losing around 100 million kroner a year.

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