The longest road tunnel in the world, the northernmost ski lift on the planet, the capital of Europe with the most forests and water: Norway offers vacationers lots of superlatives. In three years there will be another one: The most comfortable long-distance trains on the continent will be on the move in the country, which Deutsche Bahn passengers who travel with IC or ICE can only dream of.
On board there will not just be first and second class seats, no, there are flexible two- and four-seater compartments with a hinged vanity to choose from, in which you can stretch out and sleep on night journeys; during the day they turn into seating groups.
The highlight, however, are the newly developed reclining seats in the open-plan coaches – with legrests that can be folded up and backrests that can be lowered far to the rear, travelers can relax in them like in the business class of an airplane. They can be used on both day and night trips. The generous seat spacing between the individual armchairs, which are built into the carriages in a one-two configuration, is unique in Europe.
There will also be a bistro car with a self-service counter and separate luggage areas with plenty of space, including for bicycles and prams. Another special feature are newly designed family areas that really deserve their name.
They are a kind of playground on rails, with a climbing area in the shape of a Viking boat at the centre; the parents are sitting within sight of them. An excellent idea that ensures that children don't get bored after hours of train travel.
The train journey will also be more comfortable for wheelchair users: there will be at least four special wheelchair spaces, two of them in the sleeping car compartment, as well as two wheelchair lifts and a train toilet that can accommodate wheelchairs. The bistro car is designed in such a way that it can also be used by travelers with restricted mobility.
The groundbreaking concept is based on customer surveys that Norway's railways conducted in 2019 and have now implemented. Most passengers had requested more comfortable nighttime seating and more choices. "The train is more than a simple means of transport," says project manager Sille Svenkerud Førner, summing up Norway's new rail philosophy, "it's an experience in itself."
The state-owned train procurement company Norske Tog has just placed the EUR 730 million order for initially 17 Flirt-Nex train sets with the Swiss train construction manufacturer Stadler. The trains each consist of eight wagons and can reach a top speed of 200 km/h. Depending on the route, trains with electric drives or with combined diesel-electric motors are used.
Construction will start in 2024, testing will start in 2025, and the first trains will run in 2026. Norske Tog has secured an option for 100 of the new long-distance trains. They will run on all of the country's major long-distance routes for the Norwegian State Railways NSB, which changed its name to Vy in 2019.
Technically, the trains are designed so that they can also run on Swedish or Danish tracks; Connections in the direction of Gothenburg or Copenhagen, for example, are therefore conceivable in the future.
Most of the long-distance routes in Norway are of particular interest to holidaymakers. Because the country has some of the most spectacular train routes in the world. The Dovre Railway (Oslo-Trondheim), for example, runs through several national parks, with a bit of luck you can even see musk oxen from the train window, the only wild ones in Europe.
The Bergen Railway (Oslo-Bergen), on the other hand, is recommended by the traveler's bible "Lonely Planet" as "one of the most beautiful train routes in the world", which leads through barren scree and snow deserts, but also through lovely fjord landscapes. Not a bad idea to explore this top rail route in three years' time on Europe's coolest train.