‘Preparing Sweden for future threats and creating new green jobs’
22/04/2020

Three quick questions to Jens Holm (Left Party), chair of the Parliamentary Committee on Transport and Communications, about the effects of the corona crisis on transport policy and infrastructure investments.

 
Photo: Jann Lipka
 
Can the crisis be a catalyst for changes in transport policy?

– Yes, a crisis is also an opportunity. One thing this crisis teaches us is how vulnerable we are to external conditions. This brings to the fore even more the importance of getting rid of fossil energy sources. I also believe that everyone has had the opportunity to reflect on their travel patterns. Which trips will be deemed necessary in the future? What can instead be done online and over the phone? With the Government now investing heavily, it is important that this also helps bring about the absolutely necessary climate transition. We must not make the same mistakes again. We therefore need a green reboot now that things will gradually return pretty much to normal.

Should the Government now bring forward the agreed infrastructure investments and maintenance?

– Railway maintenance work should be brought forward. The cancellation of over more than half of all train services has freed up capacity on the railway. Maintenance staff had already been laid off. We thus have a golden opportunity to conduct more railway maintenance work than previously. Sweden’s bus companies are willingly helping out and are providing replacement bus services. Many of us have raised the issue, and I hope that the Minister for Infrastructure promptly commissions the Swedish Transport Administration to carry out more track maintenance and to bring it forward. *

As soon as the situation has stabilised, we should start building the high-speed rail lines. There are also important railway projects north of Stockholm that should be able to get underway earlier than planned, for example a four-track line between Stockholm and Uppsala, a double-track line all the way up to Härnösand and the completion of the North Bothnia Line to Luleå.

Are Public–Private Partnerships (PPPs) a more attractive option now that the Government’s money needs to stretch to cover support packages and a restart as well?

– No. I am no fan of PPPs in areas concerning fundamental public services; if anything, this crisis has shown the importance of government investments and that they can be financed by borrowing. I therefore hope we will soon be able to agree on major new investment projects in sustainable infrastructure and, without exception, increase the pace of the climate transition. This will play an important role in preparing Sweden for future threats and creating new green jobs.

It is extremely important to work closely with the business community. However, I think, for instance, that the Arlanda Line, with the most expensive tickets in the world and a railway line separate from the rest of public transport, is a warning example of a PPP.

* Jens Holm has posed a question on this subject to Minister for Infrastructure Tomas Eneroth (Swedish Social Democratic Party) during a parliamentary questions session.

Jens Holm was interviewed by Jean-Daniel Maurin, Senior Consultant & Partner at New Republic. ‘Three Quick Questions…’ is a series of interviews conducted by New Republic.