A little Nordic rail trip

I will be making what should be a reasonably simple rail trip in early December – the 600km journey between Copenhagen (station: København H) and Oslo (station: Oslo S). So how do I do it? Well, it turns out that it is all nowhere as simple as it should be.

First of all my departure date – 9th December – is the day of the timetable change across Europe. So DB, my normal solution for all timetable queries, does not work as some rail companies seem to not have given DB their new data yet (even though the trip is just over a month away). This is just simply not acceptable – data must be available for ALL journeys at least 3 months ahead of time – I think Öresundståg is at fault (see below).

So then, having worked out how the journey will work (using older timetable data), I then see that the trains I need to take are operated by 2 different companies – Öresundståg for København H – Göteborg C, and NSB for Göteborg C – Oslo S. So how do I book these trains?

I start, sensibly enough, with the websites of the national rail companies of the countries I will be travelling through – DSB for Denmark, SJ for Sweden, and NSB for Norway. But it’s clear from the outset that there is a problem, for the solutions I am given route me via Linköping (just look at that on a map and you’ll see I don’t want to be there for a Copenhagen-Oslo journey!) and all solutions cost a lot and take upwards of 9 hours. Meanwhile DSB’s Øresund page only allows bookings within Denmark (very handy, when most of the trains go to Sweden), so I instead end up with the Swedish language Öresundståg page, but here I can only book until 8th December but, somehow, their other booking page works from 9th December onwards… So I can get myself as far as Göteborg booking this way, and Öresundståg e-mails me tickets that I have to print myself that cost SEK 418 each way.

But then onwards from Göteborg… the problem here is that the train is run by NSB and yet I am going from Sweden TO Norway. When trying to book on NSB’s website (which, it must be said, is at least more clearly designed than any of the others!), I am directed to this page about Göteborg station. It tells me that there is no ticket machine in Göteborg station, and that I can somehow get this ticket in the train itself, but only if I book a single ticket, and that this will not work for a return. The other option, I deduce, is to use a mobile ticket on NSB’s iPhone app which – after downloading it and registering it and having to reboot the app after the station search failed – I finally managed to get my mobile tickets for this part, NOK 299 to go, and NOK 199 for the return.

So there you have it folks. All the detective work needed just for one single return rail ticket between two capital cities. And then we wonder why people fly instead…

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9 comments

  1. gjakljglaj

    You can book Öresundståg/Øresundstog+NSB from Copenhagen to Oslo at http://www.sj.se, but the site will only show the most expensive tickets, and you may have to use the “via” option to tell that you wish to travel via Gothenburg. The train from Copenhagen to Gothenburg always has a fixed price, but the Gothenburg to Oslo part can be a lot cheaper if bought from NSB’s website.

    If you have a Jojo card from Skånetrafiken, then I think you get a 20% discount if you buy your ticket from Copenhagen to Gothenburg in Skånetrafiken’s ticket vending machine at København H. The price for a ticket from Copenhagen to Gothenburg should then be approximately the same as DB’s price from Puttgarden/Flensburg to Gothenburg. If you tell the machine that you wish to travel on the Elsinore/Helsingborg ferry instead of the Copenhagen/Malmö bridge, then it might get even cheaper, but changing to/from the ferry might be inconvenient if you have lots of luggage. Note that tickets sold in Skånetrafiken’s vending machines have to be used as soon as possible after buying them (so don’t buy anything in advance). Fixed price, and the tickets won’t sell out. I don’t think that there is a Skånetrafiken machine in Gothenburg, but you may be able to get a ticket from some other kind of machine there.

  2. Erik Griswold

    Chiming in late, I know, but why wouldn’t you just take the DFDS Osloboat?

    Far more civilized, IMHO.

  3. AnneCbxl

    Ah, the lovely trains of the Kingdom of Denmark. It takes almost 5 hrs from Aalborg to CPH by train, and the flight is half an hour. Same price, or often cheaper to fly.

  4. Brian Melican

    This is obviously sheer madness. In my cross-European rail adventures, I’ve often ended up having to take the attitude of “Oh well, someone will sell me a ticket somwhere” and just go, but it’s a strategy that requires an arsenal of cash and credit cards and almost always ends in an unbelievably frustrating realisation that there was an easier and cheaper way all along.

    Surely there must be a regulation for rail operators about making information available in advance of the timetable change? I thought DB were dragging their heals by waiting until 17th October this year…

  5. Karen

    This is just a disgrace. Really. There should be something done about this. I think we should invite Alexander Stubb, Manu Sareen and their Norwegian/Swedish colleagues for a little train ride from capital to capital. Seems like they’d have time enough to talk, if they make it as we should make them book the tickets themselves too. Seems super necessarily complicated, but hopefully they’d be able to manage that after a few hours 😉

  6. Jon

    @Philip – but at least there are SJ ticket machines in København H. So online booking and receiving tickets is at least easy.

  7. Philip

    And to top it off, SJ will have soon stopped selling tickest on the train!

    http://www.thelocal.se/43008/20120904/

  8. Jon

    Agggghhh, just looked – Puttgarden-Göteborg with DB is €39 with Sparpreis. But I can’t book that for the days I need it because Öresundståg hasn’t made their timetable details available to DB.

    As for anything just as far as København I *always* book with DB. I’m a regular on København – Puttgarden – Hamburg!

  9. Kim Bach

    Yes it’s crazy, and it is sometimes cheaper to book tickets for travels in Denmark using DB instead of DSB.

    The ticket vending machines that DSB has doesn’t cover international travels, in Germany they do, you can for instance book a ticket from Rostock to Copenhagen in a DB ticket vending machine.

    The electronic ticket, Rejsekortet, that the DSB has rolled out nationwide in Denmark, was originally envisioned to cover all the nordic countries, needless to say, that failed.