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Sweden must prioritise government-financed infrastructure

Read the full article in Swedish here

The state's planning for new infrastructure is locked into a budget framework that makes it difficult to meet future transport needs. For example, the proposal of the Sverigeförhandlingen risks reducing 50-year expansion of rail capacity on 250km/h lines between metropolitan areas, says Åsa Hansson, infrastructure expert at PA Consulting Group.

Sweden grows so it's cracking. The economy is on the rise and major cities are struggling with housing and traffic. The increased immigration of recent years contributes to a fast-growing population, which further increases the pressure on housing markets in cities. With a growing economy and a growing population, travel is also increasing. Domestic air travel is steadily rising, which is partly due to the fact that rail services are struggling on lines that are in urgent need of maintenance and which have reached full capacity.

A number of major, innovative societal projects are in progress as a result of this. The government has pointed out a number of possible new cities. The Sverigeförhandlingen have proposed rapid expansion of high-speed trains, with extensive community building in the areas along the new stretches. Regional actors in southern Sweden and Denmark have suggested a Helsingborg-Helsingør tunnel to strengthen regional growth and increase traffic between Sweden and the continent.

At the same time, the state plans for new infrastructure using a budget framework that struggles to meet future capacity needs. This becomes apparent when you compare the Swedish Transport Agency's proposal for a 10-year National Transport Plan to the proposal from the Sverigeforhandlingen.

Sverigeforhandlingen has been performance-oriented, with closed agreements between the state and regional/municipal actors to maximise community benefits and rapid expansion. In short, the negotiated package will see high-speed trains between Stockholm-Gothenburg and Stockholm-Malmo that can reach 320km/h by 2035, while 300,000 new homes are built along the stretches. The commuter time for Stockholm-Malmö would be around 2.5 hours, making the train a serious competitor for the flight. The financing of the high-speed railway is proposed to be a mix of appropriations, loans, increased tax revenues and rail charges.

Meanwhile, the Swedish Transport Agency has worked according to the framework for the expansion of the transport system. Despite budgeting approximately SEK 600 billion for the national transport system for 2018-2029, much more investment is wanted. The proposal of the Sverigeförhandlingen is likely to be reduced to a 50-year extension of rail capacity on 250km/h lines between cities. And then the local commitments on housing construction also fall.

What is the benefit to society of reduced revenues from the route between Stockholm, Gothenburg and Malmö being underdeveloped in half a century?

It is obvious that infrastructure investments of this nature cannot be prioritised because of the failure to agree an appropriate financing solution. We therefore urge the government, the opposition and infrastructure minister Tomas Eneroth (S) to spend the four months before the bill is submitted seeking support for a new and historical initiative on future infrastructure by doing more together, faster and putting the benefit of society first.

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