Monday, 27 October 2008

Stockholm's Subway

or Tunnelbana as the locals know it, is a fascinating network of (mostly) underground trains.While it is a great service most of the time, there can be delays, often due to unforseen circumstances - like leaves falling off trees.
At this time of year the fallen leaves covering the tracks makes them slippery and damages the wheels. It is such a problem that SL (Stockholm's public transport) have a page dedicated to it on their website. Click on the picky above (Swedish).

Despite the occasional frustrations it is an efficient, modern service that will get you to most places in Stockholm. If not, there are buses, commuter trains and trams to get you the rest of the way. It is clean and safe, as far as public transport goes, with guards regularly patrolling, especially at night. The interior looks like this, and the exterior like this.Ok, not really. That's an original from the 50s.
They look more like this.

The subway is world famous for its art - booklets have been produced and tours can be taken.
SL not only produce a guide to the art (PDF) but also have a service on their website so you can get more information about the art at each or any station in particular. I was able to find out what the art is at our local station - it is not always apparent.

If you are curious and would like to see more photos there are plenty of blogs and photo albums on the net featuring Stockholm's subway art.

I think the interior of the carriages themselves are quite arty. As well as being bright and robust they are patriotic. Look closely and you will see some of the landmarks of our city. Notice too the interior colours - an ever so slight deviation from the traditional Swedish blue and yellow.
But what really fascinates me is the depths to which they go to, deep into the bedrock that this city is built on. I counted as many as five or six stories down into the earth to get to the platform and would be curious to know what the actual depth is in metres.You wouldn't want to fall down this escalator.
There is the odd time where there is a fire in the tunnel or on a train, but as far as I know the safety record is pretty good, with no incidents costing a number of lives. The longest of the tunnels runs between Kungsträgården and Hjulsta and is 14.3kms.Since the late 90s SL has been doing extensive renovations of the stations with many receiving a major face-lift. We have seen the introduction of cafés in the stations and there have been a number of experiments with the ticketing systems. There is also a long-term plan to extend the network. I guess all this explains why our ticket prices have gone up so much, and continue to climb.
A monthly ticket is now 690 sek giving you unlimited access to the public transport system - buses, commuter trains, trams and some ferries are all included. Good value even if it has increased some 200-300kr in the last couple of years. Unfortunately anything less than a month starts to become comparatively much more expensive.

SL has an extensive site that enables you to plan your journey using all of the modes of transport in the map below. Click on it to look a little closer.Happy travelling!


  1. I have very mixed feelings about our public transportation system, on the one hand if it works liek it should it's pretty darn convenient and rather awesome. When it doesn't - which happens too regularly for comfort - there's always a lack of information as well as often the more incredible "reasons" like this leaves slippery thing. Something they've come up with these past five years or so, how come it hasn't been a problem all those previous years? And how come everyone but SL seems to know we live in a Nordic country that offers both a plethora of Autumn leaves as well as snow every year...

    Other than that, I like our public transportation system. Mostly:)

  2. Compared to the system I grew up with in Melbourne it is pretty phenomenal - the availability is there in terms of how often it runs, how late it runs and how it reaches all the little pockets of the greater city. But that is the difference between high and low density living.

    But you are right about there not always being good information - and the leaves bit is just pathetic. Altho I think I remember reading that it has something to do with the new trains.... What gets me is how damn hot those carriages get in the summer - the buses too. Did they not put air-conditioning in them???

    I think what I really love is living a 10min walk from a hub where there are 3 modes of transport and you can get most places quickly and efficiently - until the wee hours.

  3. The urban sprawl in Australia thwarts all attempts at decent public transport coverage. The luxury of space and reliance on car travel has tripped us up somewhat. Time for an 'Australian Dream' revamp! Like it or not, high density is the only way to go.

    Ahh by the way, I love the blue line! Way down in the depths of the earth. Coolth and beautiful art. The stripy typographic station (can't remember it's name) is my favourite.


  4. here, here Sam - I agree entirely. Space is not all it is cracked up to be.