Sande Station on Vestfoldbanen
|Opened||13 October 1881|
|Owner||Norwegian National Rail Administration|
|Line length||148 km|
|Track length||166 km|
|No. of tracks||1 or 2|
|Track gauge||1,435 mm (4 ft 8 1⁄2 in)|
|Electrification||15 kV 16⅔ Hz AC|
The Vestfold Line (Norwegian: Vestfoldbanen) is a Norwegian railway line which runs from Drammen, through a number of towns in Vestfold and ending in the town of Skien in Telemark. At Skien, the line continues as the Bratsberg Line to Notodden. Service is provided by Norges Statsbaner with their InterCity Express service.
The first stretch from Drammen to Larvik was opened on 13 October 1881 while the remaining stretch to Skien opened on 23 November 1882. At first the line was called the Grevskap Line (Grevskapsbanen) and the line was originally narrow gauge at 1,067 mm (3 ft 6 in), but rebuilt to standard gauge (1,435 mm (4 ft 8 1⁄2 in)) in 1949. Between Eidanger and Skien though there was before this dual gauge, making it possible to use both narrow gauge cars and the standard gauge cars used from Brevik to Notodden and onwards to Rjukan. The line was electrified at 15 kV 16⅔ Hz AC in 1957.
Vestfoldbanen has had many branch lines. The first opened in 1881 from Skoppum to Horten, and named the Horten Line. In 1895 the line from Eidanger to Brevik, the Brevik Line, was opened. In 1901, Tønsberg–Eidsfoss Line between Tønsberg and Eidsfoss. The following year, in 1902, Holmestrand–Vittingfoss Line opened between Holmestrand and Vittingfoss. The latter two branch lines were abandoned in 1938. The Brevik Line was closed for passenger traffic in the 1960s, and completely abandoned in the 1980s with part of the tracks removed. The line Porsgrunn–Norcem Cement Factory is still used for freight trains.
In 2004 much of the service between Larvik and Skien was curtailed, leaving only peak-hour departures on that stretch. This part of the line is somewhat tortuous, and there have been plans for a tunnel, Eidanger Tunnel, to shorten this leg.
Because the Vestfold Line still follows the same right-of-way as it did in 1881, NSB is not able to operate trains at any higher speed, with the average operating speed being at 67 km/h. The Rail Administration is working on plans to gradually rebuild the Vestfold Line to double track and considerably higher speeds. At the same time the motorway E18 is being built to four lanes through the county, transferring passengers from train to car.
The upgrades will allow speeds up to 200 km/h between stations, double track between Drammen and Porsgrunn. The plans are to build lines in shorter stretches, allowing a steady increase in capacity. After completion, total travel time from Oslo to Tønsberg will be one hour (half an hour shorter than today), and travel time to Grenland will be reduced by about one hour. Some of the time reduction also comes from the construction of the Asker Line just west of Oslo.
The expansion of the line started in 1993, and in 1995 a four kilometers past Skoger was modernized. In 2001, 13 km through Sande was upgraded. 2002 saw the opening of a new crossing loop at Nykirke. This plan prioritizes parts north of Tønsberg as well as cutting times significantly between Larvik and Porsgrunn, where the line takes a long trip around, and will reduce travel time from 34 to 12 minutes. Current approved political plans include four new stretches to be completed before 2015:
- Barkåker–Tønsberg (7.7 km)
- Holm–Holmestrand (13.6 km)
- Farriseidet–Porsgrunn (Eidanger Tunnel, 23 km)
- "Larvik – Porsgrunn construction begins - Railway Gazette". Railway Gazette International. Retrieved 24 September 2012.
- The Norwegian National Rail Administration's station information for the Vestfold Line
- The Norwegian National Rail Administration's project page for expansion of the Vestfold Line
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