Cross border traffic - week 46

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As far as cross-border traffic is concerned, it has been greatly reduced during the corona pandemic, even though it has been a slight recovery since the bottom levels. The lowest quotation for international flights was in calendar week 15 (-91 percent). The number of international flights to and from Swedish airports in week 42 were 72 percent lower than during the same week last year. The number of passengers in international flights was in October 82 percent lower than the same month last year.

Passenger ships between Sweden and other countries mainly travel to / from Denmark and Finland; 70 percent of all passengers on foreign trips travel to / from these two countries. In terms of freight Germany is the largest foreign port for vessels to/from Sweden; 16 percent of all freight weight over Swedish ports goes to / from German ports. Unfortunately, we do not have access to any data per week or month about where vessels come from or where those are going.

Passenger trains are mostly used in national transports, only four percent of all journeys by train in 2019 were international journeys. By contrast, as much as 45 percent of the freight volumes go on trains in international traffic, a large part of which is ore on the Ore Railway.

Passenger trains between Sweden and Denmark started to decreased rapidly in week 11 (Figure 1). Even if the traffic increased sharply again in week 24 it is still below the level of 2019. The freight trains across the Öresund Bridge on the other hand ran much like last year, with one major exception a week in July 18-26 when railway work on the Danish side reduced the freight volumes. During week 40, freight train traffic was again affected due to track work.

The cross-border passenger train traffic between Sweden and Norway is not reported here. Freight trains to and from Norway are relatively unaffected, with an average of around 300 trains per week both years. Some weekly differences in traffic are mainly due to calendar effects, such as when Easter and Ascension weekend occur.

Figure 1. Number of trains between Sweden and Denmark via the Öresund bridge, per calendar week in 2019 and 2020.
Source: The Swedish Transport Administration

The frequency of passenger trains across the Öresund Bridge is reduced due to Denmark's restrictions on entry from Sweden. During the calendar weeks 11–23 in 2019, there were in average around 950 passenger trains per week between Sweden and Denmark. The same figure for 2020 is around 400 trains per week, a decrease with 56 percent. From June 8, Öresundståg increased their traffic to one train every 20 minutes in both directions. Since then the traffic across the bridge (per week) has been 8-25 percent below the levels in 2019. We have no information on the number of passengers on the trains.

The Öresund Bridge is also a major border crossing for road vehicles. Throughout 2019, almost 7,500,000 vehicles passed the Öresund Bridge, with 88 percent being passenger cars, 7 percent heavy goods vehicles and 3 percent light goods vehicles. In addition, motorcycles and buses had less than one percent each of the passages.

Road traffic over the Öresund Bridge has been reduced due to the corona pandemic. During the weeks 13-16, the number of passenger cars over the bridge was 75-80 percent less than in 2019 (Figure 2). Traffic across the Öresund Bridge has since then increased. During calendar week 46 the number of vehicles across the bridge was, compared to the same week last year, for passanger cars -49 percent, for LGVs (including cars with caravan) -15 percent and for HGVs, +2 percent.

During the entire period shown heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) are significantly less affected than passenger cars and LGVs are. The number of HGVs across the bridge even increased during a few calendar weeks. The large decrease in LGVs during June – August probably mainly reflect reduced tourism with fewer cars with caravan crossing the Öresund Bridge.

In terms of the total number of passing vehicles, during the entire period of calendar week 11–46, the traffic decreased by about 2,5 million vehicles over the Öresund Bridge, compared with last year. This means that the total number of vehicles across the Öresund Bridge has been about half as many as last year. Passenger cars and LGVs (including cars with caravan) are affected to the same extent while HGVs are much less so (-4 percent for the entire period).

During calendar week 39, Sweden was considered an "open country" when it came to travel to Denmark. Since then, however, Denmark has introduced restrictions and residents of eight counties are stopped from traveling into Denmark. The restrictions cover the counties of Halland, Blekinge, Stockholm, Jämtland-Härjedalen, Kronoberg, Uppsala, Västmanland and Örebro.

Figure 2. Number of vehicles across the Öresund Bridge, passenger cars, light goods vehicles (LGVs) including cars with caravan and heavy goods vehicles (HGVs). Percentage change per week 2020, compared with the corresponding week 2019.
Source: Öresundsbro Konsortiet
Note. For further description of the vehicle types used above, see Sources and definitions.

The Finnish Transport Infrastructure Agency publishes monthly the number of road vehicles passing across the Swedish-Finnish land border. The number of passing vehicles is presented for light traffic (passenger cars and vans) and heavy traffic (trucks and buses). Throughout 2019, 6.7 million vehicles crossed the border between Sweden and Finland, where light traffic was approximately 96 percent of all passing vehicles.

During October 2020, the total number of passing light vehicles was 36 percent less than in October 2019. For heavy traffic, the difference was -32 percent (Figure 17). In terms of the absolute number of passing vehicles, there were more than 2,9 million fewer vehicles crossing the border in March–October 2020, compared with last year, which is a traffic decrease of 61 percent. On September 18th, Finland eased their restrictions on entry from several countries including Sweden but already September 28th other than work trips across the border are again limited.

Figure 3. The number of vehicles passing the border between Sweden and Finland. Percentage difference January – October, compared with the same month in 2019.
Source: The Finnish Transport Infrastructure Agency
Note. Light traffic means passenger cars and vans while heavy traffic means trucks and buses.

The Norwegian Public Roads Administration measures daily road traffic across its entire country border at 30 measuring stations. During calender week 46, the median daily difference (they measure daily traffic changes) compared with last year was -70 percent (-63 percent the weekbefore). When the traffic flow across the border was at its lowest (in May), it was down to 85 percent lower than last year.

The Swedish Transport Administration has one measuring station on the border between Sweden and Norway. During calendar week 46, total traffic at this station decreased by 79 percent and heavy traffic by 14 percent. This can be compared with the entire Swedish national road network, where the same week total traffic decreased by 12 percent and heavy traffic increased by 5 percent. Norway has relatively strict restrictions on traveling across borders to / from Sweden. The Swedish counties are classified as red (with quarantine requirements when entering Norway) or yellow (without quarantine requirements). Also for yellow counties other than necessary trips are also advised against.

Border trade due to large price differences is a significant activity in Norway and Sweden dominates largely as a destination. In the first quarter of 2020, compared with 2019, Norwegian border trade decreased by 57 percent. During the second quarter the border trade was practically zero, according to Statistics Norway.

Much less cross-border trade has major consequences for trade in the Swedish municipalities close to the country borders. During the second quarter of this year, retail sales of food, beverages and tobacco in municipalities on the Norwegian border decreased by 56 percent. For municipalities on the Finnish border, the difference from last year was -21 percent. This can be compared with Swedish municipalities without borders with other countries, where retail sales of food, beverages and tobacco increased by 5 percent during the second quarter.

Less travel also means less tourism which will be reflected in fewer guest nights at commercial housing facilities in Sweden, according to statistics from the Swedish Agency for Economic and Regional Growth. The difference in the total number of guest nights, compared with the same month last year, was -48 percent in June, -32 percent in July and -34 percent in August. In August, Swedish guest nights decreased by 14 percent, while foreign guest nights were as much as 77 percent below last year's level.

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