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Sporarbejde? The words that will help you navigate public transport in Denmark

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The Local ([email protected])
Sporarbejde? The words that will help you navigate public transport in Denmark
This guide won't stop your train from being delayed, but it might help you navigate the travel chaos. Photo: Bo Amstrup/Ritzau Scanpix

Commuting to work is hardly the most joyful of experiences whatever the scenario, but when your train hasn't shown up and the PA announcements are in a language you don't speak, it can go from mild annoyance to major frustration.

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Types of transport

Firstly, it's key to be aware that the types of public transport in Denmark vary from city to city, and may be different to what you're used to in your home country.

Most of Denmark's towns and cities are served by bus (bus, plural busser) and train (tog, plural tog). In Copenhagen, there’s an underground Metro and a metropolitan overground train, the S-tog (S-train). The second- and third-largest cities, Aarhus and Odense, both have recently-constructed light rail networks, called letbane in Danish.

In Copenhagen, the rejsekort, the pre-pay card used for public transport all over Denmark, is also valid on the havnebus or harbour bus that can sometimes ferry commuters across the city quicker than other transport forms – or at least provide some nice surroundings while doing so.

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 The different kinds of train are also worth a mention. For longer distances, you can choose regional trains (regionaltog), which serve mid-distance routes, and fast trains which only stop at larger cities (intercity lyntog). Local trains are often given individual names, like the kystbanen (“coast rail”) service that runs between Copenhagen and Helsingør.

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Common announcements

The phrase you'll sometimes hear when you get on board one of Copenhagen's underground trains is dørene lukker (the doors are closing).

On distance trains, loudspeaker announcements often encourage passengers not to efterlade personlige ejendele uden opsyn (leave personal belongings unattended). Such items risk being fjernet uden ansvar (removed at no liability).

Regular announcements will let you know the næste station (next station), and if it’s the last station on the service, you’ll be told toget kører ikke videre (this train does not continue onwards).

On a bus, the display might read næste stoppested (next stop), or simply the name of the stop.

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Delays and problems

Two phrases to look out for are tog aflyst and togtraffiken påvirket (train cancelled and rail services affected) and forsinkelser (delays).

Some of the most common issues are a signal failure (signalfejl), a problem with one of the carriages (vogne) such as a door not working, or the more mysteriously vague "technical failure" (teknisk fejl). Delays and cancellations at weekends could well be a result of sporarbejde (track maintenance).

Listening closely could help you work out how serious the issue is: sometimes the announcement will specify whether the hold-up is due to an earlier signal failure (tidligere signalfejl) or an ongoing, widespread issue (omfattende signalfejl).

If you're lucky, your afgang (departure) won't actually be delayed, but there might be a change in platform. This will be announced as a sporændring (literally a "track change"). These are displayed on the information boards in stations and on platforms.

Sometimes, trains will be replaced by togbusser (literally "train buses", meaning rail replacement buses). Signs will direct you to the bus departure point, which will typically be right outside the station. Rail replacement buses are likely to be announced in advance, especially if they are in place because of sporarbejde (track maintenance).

Occasionally, industrial disputes result in strikes by rail staff, meaning major travel disruptions. The strikes will be described as a strejke (strike) if they are approved trade union strikes undertaken as part of collective bargaining negotiation. Wildcat strikes are less welcomingly received by DSB, the national rail operator, and will be described as overenskomststridige arbejdsnedlæggelser (walkouts in breach of collective bargaining agreements).

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: What is a Danish collective bargaining agreement?

Finally, there’s the weather: trafikken i hele landet (traffic across the country) can be disrupted by vejrforhold (weather conditions) such as kraftige blæst (strong winds), or perhaps only flere strækninger (several sections) of the line will be affected.

These adverse weather conditions may cause ændringer i køreplanen (changes to the normal timetable), such as nedsatte afgange (reduced departures). Eventually, normal services will be genoptaget (resumed).

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