NORWAY: Airport express operator Flytoget has applied to the national railway authority Statens Jernbanetilsyn to launch open access passenger services on the Sørlandsbanen between Oslo and Kristiansand from December 2027.

The company says it intends to run the service ‘on commercial terms, without a financial contribution from the state’. It is looking to operate seven trains each way on weekdays, three on Saturdays and five on Sundays.


The Adtranz Class 71 EMUs currently used on airport express services would be reconfigured for their new inter-city role.

Flytoget plans to deploy six of its 16 Class 71 EMUs, which were built by Adtranz Strømmen in 1997-98, but notes that these ‘must be rebuilt for the purpose’. The three-car units are currently used on airport express services between Oslo and Gardermoen, but the operator’s access rights for that route expire in 2028 and the airport service is due to be bundled into the Østlandet contract which was directly awarded to Vy in March 2023.

Passenger services on the Oslo – Kristiansand line are currently operated by Go-Ahead Nordic as part of the Trafikkpakke 1 Sør contract awarded by Jernbanedirektoratet. This also covers the Jærbanen main line between Kristiansand and Stavanger, the Egersund – Sandnes Stavanger local service L5 and Arendal – Nelaug route R50, and Go-Ahead receives an annual financial contribution from the state. The contract is due to expire in December 2027, but includes an optional two-year extension.


Flytoget explained that ‘as the main rule for passenger train traffic in Norway is now free competition, the line will then be available to other train companies, if anyone wishes to run it at their own expense and risk’. Passenger operations in Norway were nominally opened up to competition after the national parliament adopted the EU’s Fourth Railway Package in 2021, although all services are currently operated through commercially tendered or directly awarded contracts. Flytoget has identified Oslo – Kristiansand as the first route ‘to come available for operation without a government agreement’.

The formal notification to SJT is the first step in the process to establish a commercial service, and the regulator must now assess whether the proposal conflicts with any public service agreements. Flytoget believes that if JBD and Go-Ahead ‘do not wish’ to trigger the extension option in the current contract, there would be ‘no public agreement preventing the establishment of a new commercial service on the route’.

A response from SJT is expected before the end of 2024, after which the Flytoget would apply to infrastructure manager Bane NOR for suitable paths. Meanwhile, it says it will ‘continue to work on plans related to customer offers, route offers and changes to the interior onboard the trains that will be adapted to the new service’.

Competition welcomed

Go-Ahead Nordic train in Norway

Responding to the proposals, Go-Ahead said it ‘does not fear competition from Flytoget’. It said Flytoget was ‘a flagship of the Norwegian railway’, and ‘25 years of success’ had made it ‘the strongest brand in Norway, regardless of industry’.

‘We at Go-Ahead believe in competition’, emphasised Go-Ahead Norway CEO Emil Eike. ‘Competition under predictable framework conditions brings out the best in us. The Norwegian rail sector needs the dynamism and innovation that comes with competition and more train operators on the rails. When Flytoget announced its arrival on Sørlandsbanen, we think it is an exciting and right development. Go-Ahead has the people and expertise needed to stand strong in such competition, so we have no fears.

‘Many of us who work at Go-Ahead today have a history with Flytoget. We’re rooting for Flytoget and hope they get the opportunity to continue as an independent company, because the industry needs it. Everyone in the Norwegian railway sector needs something to strive for.’