Tens of thousands of railway travellers will have to brace themselves this weekend when one of the country’s busiest bottlenecks is closed for maintenance – right in the middle of the Swedish capital.
Almost all trains heading to and from southern Sweden pass through or into Stockholm via the so-called getingmidjan – the famously narrow railway linking together Stockholm Central Station and Södermalm.
But from 10pm on Friday to 5am on Monday it will be closed to all traffic north and southbound.
This means that all long-distance or inter-city trains coming from the south will terminate south of the city centre, at either Stockholm Södra on Södermalm, Flemingsberg station or the Södertälje hamn station.
Travellers should get off at one of the three stations above and change for the Stockholm commuter train to Stockholm City, or the reverse if travelling south. For readers not familiar with Stockholm public transport: Stockholm City is located underground in the same building as Stockholm Central Station, so here you can either get off (if your destination is Stockholm) or change to another train (if you are travelling onwards).
Longer journey times are however to be expected, and passengers are advised to ask their particular train operator for more information about changes, which should in theory be advertised on their ticket.
Some train companies have instead called in replacement buses over the weekend.
Getingmidjan was built in the 19th century to connect the railways north and south of Stockholm, but its capacity is limited to two tracks, so any congestion here often have national knock-on effects.
This is how it gets its name, which means ‘wasp waist’ like the historical women’s fashion silhouette where a small waistline is meant to exaggerate the hips and bust, but in Swedish also refers to a traffic bottleneck.
The word flaskhals can also be used to refer to bottlenecks in general, literally or figuratively.
The planned maintenance is part of a bigger project to revamp the two-kilometre stretch, which has already been closed to traffic for eight weeks the two last summers. And further closures are planned: next easter and next summer. The project, which will among other things see bridge tracks and concrete tunnel structures being replaced, is estimated to give Getingmidjan another 80 years’ lease on life.
Since it runs through an area of historical significance, Stockholm’s Old Town, efforts to upgrade the stretch are complicated. After the Citybanan commuter train railway opened in 2017 there are no longer any plans for a third track, since the new underground tunnel helps alleviate rail traffic problems in the city.