Kõlvart: City can't remove homeless with bad hygiene from public transport

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Trams in Tallinn.
Trams in Tallinn. Source: TLT

Homeless people with poor hygiene cannot be removed from public transport just because they make other passengers feel uncomfortable, Mayor of Tallinn Mihhail Kõlvart (Center) has said.

Kõlvart was replying to a question submitted by the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) Tallinn City Council ambassadors Mart Kallas and Kairet Remmak-Grassmann who said people have been complaining about the dirtiness of public transport in Tallinn, and specifically about dirty people on trams.

"What has been done to date to remove people with inadequate hygiene from public transport?" the city councilors wrote, saying there have been many complaints about tramlines one, two and four. 

Kõlvart acknowledged in a written reply that being in the vicinity of people with poor hygiene or who are intoxicated on public transport can cause travelers to feel uncomfortable.

Tallinn Mayor Mihhail Kõlvart (Center). Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

"But we should never forget that they, too, are members of our society and, regardless of their social background, have the right to dignity and equal treatment. The goal is not to remove anyone, even the weaker, from society, but to re-socialize them," Kõlvart.

The mayor said Tallinn Transport AS (TLT) has provided its drivers with recommendations and instructions on how to deal with such situations. 

However, he wrote, it should be kept in mind it is not always possible for the driver to assess in the rear-view mirrors whether a homeless or intoxicated person is present or entering the vehicle, as the new trams have a length of 31 meters. 

Kõlvart noted that during the day, homeless people have access to facilities which allow them to wash and get seasonal clothing and footwear. But added it is not practical to keep the day centers open during the night.

"For homeless people with health problems who need temporary accommodation, care and medical care, shelter service is provided 24 hours a day," Kõlvart explained.

TLT chairman: The bus driver is not a security guard

Deniss Boroditš, Chairman of the Management Board of TLT, told ERR's Russian portal the driver of a public transport vehicle should not have to act as a security guard.

"Above all, the driver has to drive the bus, tram or trolley and stick to the timetable, but not act as a security guard," he said. "However, the problem of homelessness is not unique, but exists globally and there is no golden key to solving it. Yes, many cities have decided to allow passengers to only enter the bus through the front door, but it is impossible for us, especially at rush hour."

Boroditš added TLT has a contract with a security company which responds to conflicts on public transport. If a driver notices an aggressive or dirty passenger, they can summon the security guards to remove the person from their vehicle. However, such passengers cannot be completely isolated.

Deniss Boroditš. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

"If they are removed from one tram then they can sit on the next and it goes on," he said.

Boroditš said it is wrong to blame the drivers and the role of passengers could also be greater. As a solution to this problem, he proposed to extend the rights of the municipal police to regularly inspect public transport.


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Editor: Helen Wright

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