How Can the Swedish Transport Administration Launch a New Traffic Management System Right Before Christmas?

By: Thomas Ström 12/19/22

Bear with me, but I must express my amazement at the Transport Administration’s poor planning. Two weeks before Christmas, this government agency deems it necessary to switch to a completely new traffic management system. Again, two weeks before Sweden’s by far most complicated travel holiday.
How is this even possible?

Everyone knows that switching IT systems in almost any area can be a very complicated matter and cause disruptions for quite some time after the transition. Most people also understand that the more actors and individuals involved, the greater the risk of bugs and other errors.

But these are clearly factors that the Swedish Transport Administration has not included in its transition to the new traffic management system, which affects all train companies that operate on our railways, and which have their own internal systems that must be integrated with the agency’s new system.

It all took place on the night of Sunday 11 December. The business and employer membership organisation Tågföretagen was very worried, and still is. The background to this is that the new system has performance issues and that it is working more slowly than it was said and intended to. Moreover, there have been some bugs that have led to a situation where various train companies, such as SJ, have not been able to test the new system against their own until very late in the transition process.

My understanding is that there is still a risk that problems will arise between the Transport Administration's new management system and the various train companies’ own internal systems. This is at least my interpretation of Tågföretagen’s Industry Expert Lina Lagerroth’s comment to Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet: “We have seen some timetables that look absolutely mad, so we are fairly certain that there will be some disruptions.”

The new train traffic management system has been implemented because the previous system was very old and required manual planning by the Transport Administration. Tågföretagen have not been opposed to moving to a more modern system, but they had hoped for a transition in about two years, 2024.

And I’m guessing they would have wanted the transition take place a different time of year. A time when there is not already a high risk of delays due to snow and low temperatures.

And not just before the busiest travel weekend of the year.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!


The Industry Is in Dire Need of More Drivers!

By: Thomas Ström 9/5/22

Why not subsidise driving licences?

The average age of truck drivers in Europe is skyrocketing. When I was 18, I started trucking at my father's haulage firm. I drove thousands of miles, both as a truck and bus driver. It was a free and fun job. I have especially fond memories of the customers’ appreciation and the excitement of going to entirely new places and locations.
So, I know what I'm talking about when I urge more people to take up the driving profession. Even if electric roads with driverless vehicles will be introduced in the future, I am convinced that the haulage industry is, in fact, an industry of the future.

It needs to be re-stocked. That’s why I am particularly pleased these days when I see young people behind the wheel of a tractor unit or a 24-metre truck. But it's just as fun to hear about 40- or 50-year-olds who have decided to make a career change and go into the driving profession.

But these days, it's not easy to become a driver. A licence is expensive, and it takes a lot of work to get one. Unfortunately, this discourages a lot of people. That's why I think that the government should step in and subsidise some of these professional driving licences. If not, there is a great risk that we will soon find ourselves amidst a shortage of goods.

The situation is urgent. We need more training centres in upper secondary schools, and at the same time, hauliers must make it easier to combine work with family and leisure. The whole industry needs to put in some effort to raise the status of the profession, to attract new generations.

It’s important to recognise that a driver's tasks are very varied and, in some cases, complex. Of course, a lot of it involves driving the vehicle itself, but tasks also involve servicing, securing loads, dealing with customers, and managing complex IT systems.

Here are some more reasons why more people should work as truck drivers.

High level of autonomy and freedom
You will get a lot of freedom under responsibility. You will be assigned a task you must complete, meaning you must be at a given place at a given time. But nobody will be checking up on you during your working hours.

A future-proof industry
Demand for truck drivers is high and not expected to slow down. That means that the future looks bright, with plenty of job opportunities in a variety of fields.

See new places and meet new people
As a truck driver, you will see lots of new places, often on a daily basis. In the process, you will meet lots of new people and make valuable contacts in the industry.

Develop as a driver
The job gives you a better sense of direction and makes you a better driver because you become more careful and attentive in traffic.

Welcome to our industry!


8,000 Wind Turbines on an Area Larger Than Gotland Required for LKAB's Fossil-Free Steel by 2040

By: Thomas Ström 6/21/22

We at NTEX support a transition away from fossil fuels and are in favour of alternative energy sources. However, those of you who read my blog know that I personally am not a great advocate of wind power.
There are loads of things that can and should be questioned, not least when it comes to the wind farms that have been built, are being built, or are being planned to be built. By chance, I came into contact with electrical engineer Johnny Steen, who is of the same opinion. He is far more experienced and well-informed than I am.

In an email I received from Johnny Steen, he draws my attention to a feature in SVT Nyheter Norrbotten (see link below). In the feature, it is stated that Swedish mining company LKAB, in its efforts to produce fossil-free and green steel, will become Sweden's largest consumer of electricity. By 2040, demand is expected to increase from the current 2 TWh to 50 TWh per year.

“We need fossil-free electricity quickly, so there is really no alternative to wind power,” says Jan Moström, CEO of LKAB to SVT Nyheter Norrbotten.

Against this background, Johnny Steen has been interested in learning how much resources, materials, etc. that are required to build wind farms that will produce 50 TWh per year. To begin with, he has requested public documents from the existing wind power projects Markbygden outside Piteå, and Vattenfall's Blakliden-Fäboberget in municipalities Lycksele and Åsele.

Studying these documents, Johnny has uncovered is how much construction material was used, how much it cost, and who supplied everything needed in these projects. He then compared these figures to what will be needed to produce 50 TWh of wind power per year.

Naturally, the figures Johnny has reached are staggering, and that they will in turn have an enormous impact on nature.

This is what Johnny Steen writes based on his findings:

“In order to produce 50 TWh of energy with wind power, you have to count on 8,000 wind turbines to begin with. With that amount and some help from the weather gods, you can reach 50 TWh when the wind is optimal and the turbines are running at full capacity. But this only happens one-third of the year. The other two-thirds of the time, the energy has to come from some other source.”

“So, let's count the feedstock needed above and under the ground to produce 8,000 wind turbines. It will require about 3,500 km2 of land, which compares roughly to Gotland's area of 3,184 km2.”

“In addition, below resources will be required to build these wind turbines:

4.4 million cubic metres of concrete = 10.5 million tonnes of concrete.

320,000 tonnes of rebar.

100 million tonnes of crushed rock. (It takes about 25,000 tonnes of dynamite to blast these volumes loose).

4,700 miles of cable trenches to be dug.

3,700 miles of new roads must be built.

1.6 million tonnes of cement. At Slite, Cementa produces 2.1 million tonnes per year.”

On the basis of these figures, Johnny Steen poses the following critical questions:

a) Which Sámi villages will be the ones paying the price? 3,500 km2 is big, even for Norrland.

b) From which areas/mountains will 100 million tonnes of crushed rock be blasted? What will the Sámi communities have to say about that?

c) Who will deliver the rebar? It is not produced in Sweden.

d) All this work will be done with diesel powered vehicles. I suspect this will lead to immense CO2 emissions.

e) Where will the cement be delivered from? Will Cementa in Slite be allowed to increase their production from 2.5 to 3.7 million tonnes?

f) And finally, what energy source will be used when the wind is not blowing?”

Here you can read the Swedish news feature in SVT Nyheter Norrbotten. 




Is the Electric Car One of the Biggest Mistakes in World History?

By: Thomas Ström 5/3/22

I'm one of those who really want and hope that Sweden will succeed in achieving the goal of a fossil-free vehicle fleet as early as 2030.
Right now, the loudest voices in the Western World are saying that the future of vehicle transport is electric, both for passenger cars and for commercial traffic. This is the direction taken by political decisions, for example, and it is also the one most often highlighted in media.

But if you want to go fossil-free quickly and without putting a lot of people's health at risk, there are other options such as biogas, biodiesel, ethanol and hydrogen, because I'm not entirely sure that in 2030 we will say that electric power was the single best option for achieving that goal.

The car companies say that the electric car is the big solution to reach our goal. But a unilateral focus on electric cars risks creating other major environmental problems. The new electric cars use much more so-called rare earth metals than petrol cars. A report by Radio Sweden (Sveriges Radio) a couple of years ago, which I have recently read, shows that the extraction of these rare earth metals causes serious pollution and health issues where they are mined.

The majority of all rare earth metals are mined and processed in China, and watercourses and land are being polluted in connection with these plants. The slag, which is a by-product of this extraction, has been dumped in nearby ponds and the like for decades. The main problem is that the slag contains, among other things, the radioactive substance thorium.

Chinese official reports show increased health problems and mortality in the villages around these areas.  No definitive link to the contamination has been proven, but significantly elevated levels of radioactive radiation have been measured.

Radio Sweden's investigation is based on interviews with sources who have a very good understanding of the rare earth industry in China and is supported by several scientific reports. They show serious environmental problems in the vast majority of mines that extract earth metals in China.

According to Radio Sweden, the Chinese government does not want this to be exposed, and speaking openly about the problems can be dangerous. Parts of the population are protesting against pollution from the mining of earth metals, but these demonstrations are quickly silenced by police violence, which we in the West rarely find out about.

It is this, in particular, that makes me doubt that powering our vehicle fleet with electricity is the only and best way forward. But there are also other things that make me uneasy about electric cars. One of them is what happens when they catch fire.

More on that in future posts.



Reduce the tax on biofuels!

By: Thomas Ström 4/11/22

For those of us who work with transport, it’s very difficult to keep up with the skyrocketing fuel prices. Especially if you, like NTEX, aim to reduce the company’s carbon footprint by for example refuelling with HVO (hydrotrerated vegetable oil).
When this biofuel, which reduces CO2 emissions by up to 90%, costs several crowns more per litre than regular diesel, it sends out a strange signal.
Why not allow traders, who carry out activities that depend on fuel, to receive a substantial tax reduction for all sustainable biofuels?

I’m not the only one who thinks this would be a good idea. Recently, EU Commissioner for Competition, Margrethe Vestager was approached by representatives from the Swedish Public Transport Association, the Swedish Bus & Coach Federation and some 30 other players who work in transport, fuel, vehicle manufacturing, agriculture, and environmental organisations.

 Together, they demand a long-term tax exemption for all sustainable biofuels. They argue that this is a prerequisite for the Swedish transport sector to achieve its ambitious climate targets. I must say, I agree.

In their op-ed, they point out that increased electrification is an important part of the solution, but that there is much more that needs to be done. “[Electricity] currently solely accounts for 0.01 percent of the energy used for road transport in the EU. By contrast, sustainable biofuels represent 5.6 percent of the energy used, while fossil fuels fill the remaining 94.4 percent.” (Source: 

The higher prices of HVO do not exactly encourage the use of sustainable biofuels. It doesn't take a genius to figure out that in their quest to survive, more and more companies are likely to go back to refuelling their trucks and buses with diesel.

But it is not just players in the transport sector who depend on tax exemptions on biofuels. I think other traders who depend on fuel should also be be included.

Take, for example, the farmer I recently saw in a Youtube clip, who has done everything she possibly can to run a sustainable business. She had switched to HVO, but because prices have skyrocketed, she is now forced to switch back to diesel in order to keep her business running.

And honestly, who can blame her?


Distasteful for Companies to Continue Delivering Despite Sanctions

By: Thomas Ström 4/1/22

NTEX Has Stopped All Traffic to Russia and Belarus.

These are strange, uncertain, and terrible times.
Like most others, NTEX have decided to shut down all traffic to, from, and via Russia and Belarus indefinitely.

Fortunately, this has not required us to lay off any staff. All those affected have been reassigned to other tasks within the company as we continue to grow.

Apart from having shut down these routes, we see no direct consequences of the war. But we are affected indirectly as Ukrainian drivers are leaving their jobs in Europe to participate in the war against Russia. This leads to a shortage of both trucks and drivers, which increases the demand for our services as there are currently more assignments than there are hauliers to carry them out. Thus, the market currently belongs to the hauliers.

Another effect that both we and our customers are experiencing is the high price of diesel. In the past, we have adjusted our customers' contracts on a monthly basis. However, for obvious reasons, we must do it more often now.

In view of the skyrocketing fuel prices, I think our government should review taxation and subsidies. Sure, they have reduced the taxes a little, but since more than 50 per cent of the price is made up of tax, I think it could be reduced even more. As it is now, the Swedish state is making a lot of money thanks to the high prices.

Another aspect of this is that those who are fighting to reduce our carbon footprint by using HVO diesel are paying more per litre than for normal diesel. This despite the fact that this biofuel reduces CO2 emissions by up to 90 per cent. Why not give all traders, who are involved in fuel-dependent activities, a substantial tax reduction for all sustainable biofuels?

I'm not thinking of NTEX in particular, but rather of the hauliers we employ and, not least, of all the Swedish farmers who are currently on their knees because of the skyrocketing costs of fuel, fertiliser, and seed. If no action is taken soon, the cost of food from Swedish farms will also skyrocket. This will affect everyone who shops.

On the subject of food, I recently learned that the dairy giant Arla has decided to stop selling its Kefir sour milk, as they think the packaging has a connection to Russia. I find it remarkable that there are Swedish companies that continue to supply their products to Russia. The fact that they have tripled their turnover since the war broke out, whereas their competitors ceased deliveries, is downright distasteful.


Can Companies with Production in China Really Claim to Be Climate Neutral by 2040?

By: Thomas Ström 2/10/22

Nowadays, hardly a day goes by without hearing something about sustainability or reducing carbon emissions.
Some companies even claim that their operations will generate zero emissions by 2040.
In some cases, I think that's achievable.
But when global giants with production in China make these claims, I wonder.

The question is whether it's even possible to achieve zero emissions when you produce the majority of your goods in China. This despite the fact that China is currently the country in the world that installs the most solar and wind power plants. Unfortunately, this electricity will not be enough to meet the growing demand for electricity.

This means that China will be heavily dependent on fossile fuels for many years to come.
A China that already has 1,000 coal-fired power stations.
A China that announced at the end of last year that it will build another 43 in 2022.
A China that in 2020 built one new coal-fired power plant a week.
A China where coal mining is going full steam ahead during the current energy crisis across the world.

Add to that China's announcement that it wants to be climate neutral by 2060 and that emissions will peak before 2030.

Does anyone really believe this? Especially given that the dictatorship is currently investing in nearly 100 new coal-fired power plants and ordering massive coal mining in its coal mines. In Inner Mongolia alone, its 70-plus mines are set to increase production by nearly 100 million tonnes.

According to a report from last year, China needs to close at least 600 of its coal-fired power stations over the next decade in order to achieve its goal of being carbon neutral by 2060. That's not going to happen. On the contrary, it will emit huge amounts of carbon dioxide. From what I have read, that is about 13 to 15 billion tonnes every year for the next ten years, or up to 15% per year above recorded 2015 levels.

Honestly, it's not very likely that the global giants with manufacturing in China will be able to be completely climate neutral by 2040.


Increased Costs Create Change

By: Thomas Ström 1/25/22

 – But We Must Stop Investing in Wind Power

The pandemic and soaring prices for both electricity and fossil fuels have been at the forefront of Swedish news coverage at the start of 2022. There is every reason to believe that the year will continue in this vein, almost certainly leading to an overall price increase and inflation.
More and more people will have to economise and tighten their budgets, both in their private lives and at work.

This will lead to an increased demand for better and more efficient transport and communication, a clear overview of energy sources and fuels, and a more streamlined procurement process. The positive side of reviewing one's budget is that it ultimately leads to less waste, more control, and long-term sustainability. More concretely, it involves reviewing all purchases. Can they be coordinated? Can they be replaced by other alternatives? Or should we simply stop buying certain goods and services?

I’m on board with most of this, but one thing I do not advocate when it comes to new energy sources is wind power – because it brings about a lot of problems.
Firstly, windfarms are deployed in areas where they have a major impact on nature. The foundations alone require several hundred tonnes of concrete, which, depending on the amount of cement required, has a major impact on the climate. Additionally, very few parts of the wind turbines are recyclable.
Once in place and in full operation, the rotor blades kill a large number of insects and birds.
Just before Christmas, I watched a TV programme that showed the negative effects that windfarms have on the lives of people living nearby, due to the high noise levels and shadow flicker.

In Rotterdam, which I visited last autumn, the wind turbines have brought about a different problem. It’s a problem that’s hard to wrap one's head around. A large number of wind turbines have been deployed in the sea, right outside Rotterdam, and when they go full blast, they actually make the wind turn!

This means that unpleasant smells from refineries and other industries, which used to disappear out to sea, are now blowing straight into the city and in the faces of its residents.

In addition to this, I recently read about a completely different problem related to the wind power boom. The hunt for balsa wood, which is used in the wind turbines’ rotor blades, contributes to the deforestation of the Amazon rainforest. I plan to return to this matter in an upcoming blogpost.

These are some arguments against investing further in windfarms. We should instead invest more in solar and hydropower, hydrogen, and small and efficient nuclear reactors.


About Ströms blogg


Welcome to my blog. Here I will write about transport and logistics and much more ...

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