The Swedish National Audit Office is also critical of the high-speed rail

By: Thomas Ström 12/20/19

A few weeks ago, the Swedish National Audit Office (Swedish NAO) presented an interesting report. In the report, the authority directs harsh criticism towards the planned high-speed railway and highlights what I have been saying since discussions about this project started. What the Swedish NAO mainly emphasizes in its criticism is the following:

  • The costs have increased significantly,
  • Cheaper alternatives have not been investigated.
  • Other important projects risk not being prioritized.

In fact, they believe that the faults are so serious that the government is being called to review the entire project. I really hope they do.

When the discussions began, regarding high-speed trains between Sweden's three major cities, the support from the Swedish Riksdag (Parliament) was strong. All four conservative parties as well as the Social Democrats, the Swedish Green Party and the Left Party said yes.

However, over time, the political support has waned and now the Moderate Party, the Sweden Democrats and the Christian Democrats say no. In addition, Nyamko Sabuni and the Liberals said that they only support the expansion if the Moderates support it, which they do not.

Now, the next big miscalculation for the project has been presented. After reviewing the plans, the Swedish NAO has now recommended the government to step on the brakes.

The main reason for this is that the costs have increased significantly. According to the Swedish Transport Administration's latest calculation, the bill now amounts to 250 billion SEK, to be compared with the 50 billion SEK budgeted at the beginning. This is 200 billion SEK more. But it doesn’t stop there. In its report, the Swedish NAO writes that there are "significant risks" for costs increasing even more and refers to experiences from similar projects in other countries.

The report concludes that the project is unprofitable. They also see great risks in other more profitable being pushed aside. According to the Swedish NAO, every invested hundred crowns in the high-speed railway gives 40 SEK in return. The average for other projects in the national transport plan gives 150 SEK in return.

The Swedish NAO also points out a number of shortcomings in the planning of the project. There are investigations that have been rushed, basic analyses missing, and also other, cheaper alternatives, which have never been investigated. In addition, no trials have been conducted in which different solutions and costs are evaluated against each other.

The authority also states, which is most startling, that the planning of the new high-speed railway has not taken into account whether the investment is socioeconomically efficient. The request to the government is to not make any new decisions regarding the high-speed trains until the planning has been redone in the proper manner. I really hope that will happen.