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European Cities
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Oslo - Europe
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Oslo (called Christiania from 1624 to 1878, and Kristiania from 1878 to 1924) is the capital and largest city of Norway. It is also a municipality and a county of its own. It is the third-largest Scandinavian city, after Copenhagen and Stockholm, and it forms the third-largest urban area in the region, also after Copenhagen and Stockholm. The city of Oslo was established as a municipality on 3 January 1838 (see formannskapsdistrikt). It was separated from the county of Akershus as a county of its own in 1842. The rural municipality of Aker was merged with Oslo on 1 January 1948 (and then transferred from Akershus county to Oslo county). Furthermore, Oslo shares several important functions with Akershus county. Oslo's share of the national GDP is 17%; the metropolitan area's share is 25%. Oslo is one of the most expensive cities in the world.

The meaning of the name Oslo has been the subject of much debate. It is certainly derived from Old Norse, and was in all probability the name of a large farm at the site of the first settlements in Bjørvika. During the Middle Ages the name was initially spelled 'Ásló', later 'Ósló'. The earlier spelling suggests that the first component 'ás' refers either to the Ekeberg ridge southeast of the town ('ås' in modern Norwegian), or to the Norse homonym meaning 'god' or 'divinity'. The most likely interpretations would therefore be 'the meadow beneath the ridge' or 'the meadow of the gods'. Both are equally plausible. A fire in 1624 destroyed much of the medieval city (the section now known as Gamlebyen), and the city was relocated nearer to the Akershus Fortress. King Christian IV of Denmark and Norway renamed the reborn city Christiania. From the end of the 1800s, the name of the city was also spelled "Kristiania". An official decision was never made, so both forms were in use. The original name of Oslo was restored by a law of 11 July 1924, effective 1 January 1925. There are daily ferry connections to Kiel (Germany), Copenhagen (Denmark), Frederikshavn (Denmark) and Nesodden.

Public ferries run daily to and from the islands scattered in the Oslo harbour basin. Oslo Sentralstasjon is the main railway station in Oslo. From there, there are connections in the directions of: Trondheim, Bergen, Stavanger, Stockholm (Sweden), Gothenburg (Sweden) and Copenhagen (Denmark). In 2004 Norwegian trains were Europe's third most punctual national train company. For the 4 first months in 2005 the punctuality was 92.9%. During winter in particular, weather conditions such as snow and blizzards may cause delays and cancellations on the routes crossing the central mountains. The public transportation system in Oslo is managed by the municipal transport company Ruter. This includes metro, tram, bus and ferry, but not the local train lines, which are operated by the state railway company NSB. All public transport in Oslo, including local trains, operates on a common ticket system, allowing free transfer within a period of one hour with a regular ticket. Tickets also transfer to the local and inter-city trains, unless you intend to cross the city border. In 2004, 160 million journeys were made using public transport, of which 85% was handled by Oslo Sporveier's own subsidiaries and 15% by private bus and ferry operators under cost-based contracts. The tram system, Oslotrikken, is made up of six lines that criss-cross the inner parts of the city and extend out towards the suburbs. Trams partly run on in the streets and partly on separate roads. The metro system, known as the T-bane, connects the eastern and western suburbs and comprises six lines which all converge in a tunnel beneath downtown Oslo. The metro lines are identified by numbers from 1 to 6, with two lines running into the municipality of Bærum in the west. The tramway lines are numbered 11 to 13 and 17 to 19.

A new, partially underground loop line was opened in August 2006, connecting Ullevål in the north-west and Carl Berners plass in the east. Two new stations, Nydalen and Storo, have been operational for a couple of years already, the third station, Sinsen, opened August 20, 2006. This completed the loop. In conjunction with the opening of the circle line, there will be a major upgrade of the rolling stock, with delivery taking place between 2007 and 2010. An RFID ticketing system with automatic turnstile barriers has been under introduction for several years, but has been heavily delayed and is not yet in service. A public bicycle rental programme has been in operation from April every year since 2002. With an electronic subscription card users can access bikes from over 90 stations across the city. As Norway's capital and biggest city several national highways meet or passes through Oslo. European route E6 runs through Oslo in the eastern suburbs on its way from Southern Sweden to Northern Norway. European route E18 runs through downtown Oslo (including a tunnel under Akershus festning) on its way from Stavanger and Kristiansand to Stockholm. European route E16 from Bergen doesn't go into Oslo proper, but ends on E18 at Sandvika a few kilometers west of Oslo. Oslo also has a system of "ring roads" connecting east and west. Ring 3 is the outer one running from the E6 junction in the east via Ullevål to E18 on the border to Bærum municipality in the west. Ring 2 runs from Gamlebyen in the east to E18 at Skøyen in the west. Ring 1 is the downtown "through road". The ring roads make navigation easier and improve trafic flow. E18, E6, Ring 2 and Ring 3 are connected by an elaborate system of tunnels and bridges in the Økern-Ekeberg area. At present (2008) a new underwater tunnel for E18 is constructed in Bjørvika to divert traffic from the street level. Access into the city centre requires the payment of a toll at one of 19 entry points around the ring road. It costs 25 NOK to enter the cordoned zone at all times of day, seven days a week, although a season ticket is available. Since February 2, 2008 coins are no longer accepted at the Toll Station, and all cars must pass through the automatic lanes without stopping. If you are fitted with the electronic AutoPASS system then you will be debited as you pass, all other drivers will receive a bill in the post. Initially revenues from the road tolls funded the public road network, but since 2002 it mainly finances new developments for the public transport system in Oslo. There has been discussion whether to continue to use the cordon after 2007, based on the funding decisions, extensions, accommodation of time-differentiated pricing or replaced by another form of pricing altogether, perhaps to make congestion pricing possible.
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