Danish-Swedish border checks cause stress, delays
By Lisbeth Kirk
The number of passengers travelling by train between Denmark and Sweden has dropped 12 percent since Sweden introduced ID-controls at the border with Denmark in January.
An estimated 15,000 people still commute daily between the two countries via the Oresund bridge.
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Many chose to live on the Swedish side, where house prices are lower, while the jobs are easier to find on the Danish side.
It used to be an easy way of managing the situation.
But no more. From midnight on 4 January 2016, daily travel routines changed drastically when temporary border controls were introduced to stop refugees from travelling en masse into Sweden.
The border control regime has so far been prolonged six times and will stay in place until at least 4 November.
Train transport suffers the most
A fresh study by Oresundsinstituttet, a Danish-Swedish institute designed to promote the region, shows how the border control has affected people and businesses in the region.
Train transport has suffered the most, with an average 30 minutes longer travel time between Malmoe in Sweden and Copenhagen, the study showed.
Passengers feel stressed (64%). Families with children are unhappy because delays make it difficult to plan when to be home to pick up children from daycare.
Many said they would give up working on the other side of the strait if things do not improve. Businesses fear that means they would have less access to qualified staff.
Trains used to run every 10 minutes, now it is every 20 minutes.
Fewer departures have led to overcrowded trains. It has become difficult to find a seat. The journey has also been chopped into pieces by several ID controls.
As a result, many have opted to go by car at an extra monthly cost of average €500 to €600.
”It is not so much the 15-30 extra minutes, it is how the whole trip goes. I used to get on the train, have a seat and have 40 minutes or so to relax, read (either for pleasure or work), so I am fresh for home", one commuter told the Oresundsinstituttet survey.
"Now it is a mad rush to make the metro, stand at least half of the time. Then push and squeeze your way on a train at the airport which you hope showed up on time, so you did not freeze on that wind tunnel of a platform. The train is packed solid. This is not relaxing. It is not a nice way to travel. I never know if the train is going to be on time or totally messed up, so you cannot really make plans ... So yes, it sucks!”.
"Many people in my company in Copenhagen are changing job and I'm thinking about doing the same," another commuter said.
Regional integration at stake
Since 1996, EU structural funds have helped to finance the construction of the Oresund bridge, which, since 2000, connects the Danish capital to Malmoe, Sweden's third largest city.
But now, the entire idea of regional integration is at stake.
The findings were discussed at the The People's Political Festival on Bornholm, where the Nordic Council organised a public debate on the new Danish-Swedish border controls.
Heidi Avellan, political editor-in-chief of Sydsvenskan, a daily newspaper in Sweden, said trust disappeared overnight when the border checks were introduced, ending 60 years of passport-free travel between the two Nordic states.
"It is hard to imagine that any business would establish itself in Malmoe under these circumstances," she said.
The reasons for introducing the controls were, by and large, not questioned by the audience, but the way the controls are being carried out, especially on trains, drew strong criticism.
Sweden's ambassador to Denmark Fredrik Joergensen said there was "no quick fix" to be found.
Meanwhile, people and businesses are making their own arrangements.
Petter Hartmann, CEO of Medicon Valley Alliance, said the Danish pharmaceutical industry altogether has some 1,000 employees crossing daily from Sweden to work in the greater Copenhagen area.
One of the companies, Ferring Pharmaceuticals, has organised daily bus-transport to make sure employees are able to cross without stress, delay or extra costs.
Eva Kjer Hansen, a Danish MP and a member of the Nordic Council, said she almost did not make it to the Bornholm debate on time. She remembered at the last minute that this year going to the Danish island required a passport, since the shortest way is to travel through Sweden.
Another curious effect of the border checks was that more Danes had requested moped driving licenses.
This is not because they want to cross over to Sweden on a moped, but because the moped licence is cheaper than getting a new passport and is accepted as valid ID when crossing the Broen bridge over the strait.
The shorter way to attend the yearly Folkemoede on Danish island Bornholm goes via Sweden - now with passport required