Industrial conflict brings Denmark’s trains to a standstill

Rail traffic in the eastern part of Denmark was paralysed on Monday due to unofficial industrial action by train drivers with the national DSB rail company.

Industrial conflict brings Denmark’s trains to a standstill
Photo: Liselotte Sabroe/Ritzau Scanpix

No trains east of the city of Odense operated from early Monday morning, DSB announced.

Regional and long-distance trains, as well as metropolitan S-trains in Copenhagen, were all encompassed by the wildcat strike, DSB head of information Tony Bispeskov said early on Monday.

“At six o’clock, we stopped train traffic east of Odense. So we are not operating east of Odense or in the whole of Zealand, neither S-trains nor regional or long-distance trains,” Bispeskov said.

Meanwhile, commuters between Malmö and Copenhagen were forced to take replacement buses to work on Monday morning.

Trains between Copenhagen Airport and Malmö's Hyllie station were stopped in both directions from 4am on Monday morning.

READ ALSO: Wildcat strike stops trains between Sweden and Denmark

The wildcat strike comes after an extended period of conflict between the train drivers and DSB, relating to freight and local trains operated by companies other than DSB.

“This is an unofficial strike action. As such, it is difficult to say when the train drivers will resume work,” Bispeskov said early on Monday.

“We encourage all passengers to keep themselves updated online. But it is advisable to find alternative forms of transport, such as bus or Metro trains,” he added.

Later on Monday, DSB announced that trains were beginning to run again and that normal service was expected on Tuesday.

The relationship between DSB and its drivers has been strained since the end of 2017, when the national rail company left industrial agreements with the state and joined the Confederation of Danish Industry (Dansk Industri).

Following that, DSB has locally entered into agreements on employment conditions such as working hours. According to media, it is objections to these agreements that have resulted in Monday’s wildcat strikes.

DSB has demanded a significant reduction of union representatives. In November, Dansk Jernbaneforbund (The Association of Danish Rail Workers) agreed to reduce this number from 99 to 41.

But other conditions are yet to be agreed upon, and the association has so far failed to sign the agreement over the reduced representatives.

READ ALSO: Danish rail workers halt Copenhagen traffic over industrial dispute

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Could Oslo-Copenhagen overnight train be set for return?

A direct overnight rail service between the Norwegian and Danish capitals has not operated since 2001, but authorities in Oslo are considering its return.

Norway’s transport minister Knut Arild Hareide has asked the country’s railway authority Jernbanedirektoratet to investigate the options for opening a night rail connection between Oslo and Copenhagen.

An answer is expected by November 1st, after which the Norwegian government will decide whether to go forward with the proposal to directly link the two Nordic capitals by rail.

Jernbanedirektoratet is expected to assess a timeline for introducing the service along with costs, market and potential conflicts with other commercial services covering the route.

“I hope we’ll secure a deal. Cross-border trains are exciting, including taking a train to Malmö, Copenhagen and onwards to Europe,” Hareide told Norwegian broadcaster NRK.

The minister said he envisaged either a state-funded project or a competition awarding a contract for the route’s operation to the best bidder.

A future Oslo-Copenhagen night train rests on the forthcoming Jernbanedirektoratet report and its chances of becoming a reality are therefore unclear. But the Norwegian rail authority earlier this year published a separate report on ways in which passenger train service options from Norway to Denmark via Sweden can be improved.

“We see an increasing interest in travelling out of Norway by train,” Jernbanedirektoratet project manager  Hanne Juul said in a statement when the report was published in January.

“A customer study confirmed this impression and we therefore wish to make it simpler to take the train to destinations abroad,” Juul added.

Participants in the study said that lower prices, fewer connections and better information were among the factors that would encourage them to choose the train for a journey abroad.

Norway’s rail authority also concluded that better international cooperation would optimise cross-border rail journeys, for example by making journey and departure times fit together more efficiently.

The Femahrn connection between Denmark and Germany, currently under construction, was cited as a factor which could also boost the potential for an overland rail connection from Norway to mainland Europe.

Night trains connected Oslo to Europe via Copenhagen with several departures daily as recently as the late 1990s, but the last such night train between the two cities ran in 2001 amid dwindling demand.

That trend has begun to reverse in recent years due in part to an increasing desire among travellers to select a greener option for their journey than flying.

Earlier this summer, a new overnight train from Stockholm to Berlin began operating. That service can be boarded by Danish passengers at Høje Taastrup near Copenhagen.

READ ALSO: What you need to know about the new night train from Copenhagen to Germany