Great need for more expertise for the railway

The coming decade will see the biggest investment in Swedish transport infrastructure in modern times – including the upgrading, modernisation and expansion of the rail network. This will involve a great need for additional expertise, concludes Trafikverket, the Swedish Transport Administration, which regards skills supply to be one of the biggest and most important issues at the Elmia Nordic Future Transport Summit in Jönköping on 8–10 October.


“Based on the fact that starting in 2019 we will now receive more funding for the rail network than we’ve ever had before, we believe that the industry’s biggest challenge is the supply of skills – quite simply, to attract enough skilled employees to the railway sector,” explains Pär Gustafsson, head of the department of customer and supplier communication at Trafikverket.

In the long-term infrastructure plan adopted by the Swedish Government last year, National plan for the transport system 2018–2029, SEK 622.5 billion has been allocated to infrastructure for all modes of transport. A further SEK 90 billion will come from congestion charges, track access charges and co-financing. The total amount is SEK 100 billion more than in the previous national plan, and the largest percentage increase will go to the operation and maintenance of the rail network. The SEK 125 billion reserved for this purpose is a full 47 percent more than in the previous plan.

“Of course this means a great deal,” Gustafsson says. “Trafikverket can now really begin the work of upgrading, modernising and expanding the railway system. In addition to the challenge of skills supply, it will of course be a challenge to be able to do so much track work while keeping the trains running – to balance the time required for the tracks with that needed for the services being operated at the same time.”


Unique meeting place for the railway industry

Trafikverket has participated in Elmia’s transport fairs ever since they began over 20 years ago. The government agency is a partner for the fairs and is thereby involved in shaping the whole meeting place. Trafikverket is a member of the programme council, which chooses the theme and compiles the discussion topics for the three-day-long conference programme. The agency is also a member of the exhibitors’ council, which plans the two fairs Elmia Nordic Rail and Elmia Nordic Transport Infrastructure, which are held in parallel with the conference.

“The conference is very important,” Gustafsson says. “It is the only opportunity when the whole railway industry meets like this. It is a meeting place attended by the entire industry – with everything from ourselves and other government agencies and departments to consultants, contractors and technology companies. This totality is what makes the event so special and it is self-evident for us to be involved in it.

“There are also many highly topical issues every time. We invest a lot of time and resources to make the event as good as possible for us and all the participants and visitors. As the organiser, Elmia also does its absolute best to ensure that the seminar programme is both relevant and topical.”


Strategic issues for the future

The Elmia Nordic Future Transport Summit conference focuses on strategic issues for the future and has four different themes: Cross-border Cooperation, Funding, Research & Innovation and Skills Supply.

“On the topic of innovations, there are many good examples of cases where we see that we here at Trafikverket can contribute positively to the situation. We also usually mention at the conference that we take on our own responsibility for advancing the supply of skills, not least via our training centre Trafikverksskolan, which develops expertise in the railway industry.

“Last time, in 2017, we presented an exciting new training programme we used to try to attract engineers who were newly arrived to Sweden. Trafikverksskolan organised a special course where these engineers, regardless of their previous speciality, got to learn about the Swedish railway system and thereby gained a foothold in the labour market. It was an exciting, good and positive training event.”

The new major investments in transport infrastructure are dependent on having a good supply of expertise.

“It’s a challenge to find all the new expertise that will be needed – to be able to attract both young people and career changers who want to switch industries. Both these groups are necessary if we are to be able to implement all these transport infrastructure projects we’re facing,” Gustafsson concludes.


Pär Gustafsson, head of the department of customer and supplier communication at Trafikverket.
Pär Gustafsson, head of the department of customer and supplier communication at Trafikverket. Photo: Trafikverket