Tallinn's trolleybuses to be replaced with electric buses and trams by 2035

Trolleybus at Baltic Station
Trolleybus at Baltic Station Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

While by 2025 diesel buses will disappear from the public transport system in Tallinn, to be replaced by gas buses for the next decade, by 2035 all public transport in the capital will be electric.

Tallinn City Transport Ltd (TLT) announced at the beginning of the year that for the first time in its history the company had driven more than 100 million times a year, and that the number of passengers increased by ten percent during the year. 

In the coming years, TLT plans to upgrade its fleet properly. The big goal is that by the year 2025 not a single drop of diesel fuel will be used in public transport in Tallinn. For this, TLT has already signed a contract where the city-owned company will procure 350 gas buses over the next five years, the first 100 of which will reach Tallinn this year.

However, the transition to environmentally friendly public transport does not end there, it's only a transition phase. Electric buses are already being tested and by 2035 all public transport in Tallinn will be powered by electricity. While trams and trolleys are currently used as electric vehicles, in 2035 there will only be trams and electric buses. Trolleys will gradually disappear from the cityscape of Tallinn over the next decade.

Today, TLT has 50 trolleybuses alongside more than 500 buses, operating on four routes - 1, 3, 4 and 5. In peak years, Tallinn had nine trolleybus lines, of which more than half have been replaced by bus lines today. For example, trolleybus 2 was replaced by bus 24, trolleys 6 and 7 were replaced by bus lines 42 and 43.

All the trolleybuses used at the moment will continue. As long as they are still drivable, they will be used.

Deputy Mayor Andrei Novikov said trolleys in Tallinn are perfectly decent. "As the trolley fleet is completely modern, the existing trolley infrastructure and rolling stock will definitely provide service for the trolley bus lines in the coming years. At the end of 2019, the average age of the trolleybuses was 13,2 years," he said.

Today, existing trolleybuses are enough to serve the existing routes, TLT communications manager Kaarel Kutti told ERR.

Whether and when to close trolley lines and replace them with bus lines is not up to the city, but to TLT. To TLT's knowledge, there are no such changes in the plan. "The trolley bus lines will continue to exist today and will serve approximately 11 million people annually," Kutti noted.

Novikov said the city of Tallinn has no concrete plan for replacing trolleybus lines with bus lines at any time, and there are no plans to replace any trolley line with a bus line in the near future.

But the electric bus will eventually replace everything except the tram.

Thus, trolleys can be seen in Tallinn traffic for quite a few more years. However, electric buses are expected to carry passengers on the streets of the capital city in the coming years. Although trolleybuses also help the TLT to implement an environmentally friendly strategy, the electric bus is still a better solution overall.

"Manufacturers today are investing in developing and increasing production volumes of electric buses, because the electric bus combines the best features of a trolley and a conventional bus. Thus, both trolleybuses and conventional buses will pass on the task to electric buses quite at the same time," Kutti said and added, that around 5 percent of the new buses introduced in European public transport are already electric.

Before the electric buses, there will be buses running on Tallinn gas, which will replace all diesel buses in the next few years. However, gas is only a temporary solution. "The gas bus is a logical interim step to reduce the ecological footprint before switching to electric buses - significant savings and a significantly smaller ecological footprint," Kutti said.

The current option - trolleys and diesel buses - is also the most expensive. "The cost of a new bus is lower, but the fuel consumption is higher. On the other hand, a trolley bus has a higher cost, but electricity is cheaper and more environmentally friendly than diesel," said Kutti.

Until the electric buses finally conquer the streets of Tallinn, machines with horns continue to rumble.

"The company's environmentally friendly strategy does not force the replacement of trolleybuses in any way. We will continue to use trolleybuses for several years until their natural resource runs out. But the future is clear - at latest, by the year of 2035, all of Tallin's public transport will be electric, and passengers will be served by electric buses and trams," Kuti said.


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Editor: Roberta Vaino

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