Denmark to get battery-powered trains from next year

Battery trains are to be trialled on two rail lines in Denmark in 2020.

Denmark to get battery-powered trains from next year
Minister of Transport Benny Engelbrecht in the Copenhagen Metro. Photo: Maria Albrechtsen Mortensen/Ritzau Scanpix

Minister of Transport Benny Engelbrecht reached agreement with regional authorities in Copenhagen, Zealand and Central Jutland to trial battery-powered trains on two different railway lines.

The deal was announced by the Ministry of Transport and Housing via a press release.

The battery trains are planned to run on the stretch between Helsingør and Hillerød in North Zealand and on the Lemvig line in northern West Jutland from the end of 2020 and at the start of 2021.

Engelbrecht said he sees battery trains as beneficial for the climate and can help solve smaller railways in particular to convert from diesel to electric power.

“Not only can battery trains reduce Denmark's CO2 emissions, they also help create the basis for better transport systems,” the minister said.

“Overall, there is much to indicate that battery trains can be an important part of future rail operation in Denmark,” he added.

Authorities will not invest money on battery trains for the trial, which will give contractors the opportunity to showcase their trains in daily operations.

Battery trains are currently in use in test operations with passengers in Austria and are also being tested in Germany, where orders for the trains have been placed.

“A trial of battery trains in Denmark will provide the relevant parties with useful experience from practical operation before we potentially place an order for battery trains for passenger operation,” Engelbrecht said.

“At the same time, it will give passengers the chance to try battery trains in daily use on the Danish railways. My hope is that we will see battery trains in daily operation in Denmark from the mid-2020s,” he added.

READ ALSO: Denmark targets one-hour rail times between five major cities

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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