There will not be a reduction in public transport services in Tallinn despite falling passenger numbers as semi-empty buses tend to have a positive effect in limiting the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19), the head of Tallinn Transport said on Monday. Ticket checks will also stop to limit person-to-person contact.
Deniss Boroditš, chairman of the board of Tallinn City Transport Ltd (TLT), told ERR, passenger numbers declined significantly last week while children were still at school and from Monday schools are shut, which will further decrease the numbers.
In addition to school children, many older people, who followed the recommendation to stay away from busy places, have also stopped using public transport.
Mayor of Tallinn Mihhail Kõlvart (Center) told the ERR Tallinn is not currently planning to reduce public transport schedules, as this could lead to people being too close to each other on the buses or tram under a reduced schedule.
"In order for life-long services to continue, a lot of people still have to go to work, because not all jobs can be done from home. Initially, public transport will continue to work according to the schedule, but we will monitor the situation and be ready to make amendments" said Kõlvart.
Boroditš confirmed his words, saying that only three routes currently being altered are school bus lines because schools are closed.
"Otherwise, there hasn't been a change in schedule. As long as we don't have a curfew, it doesn't make sense, because for many people public transport is the only way to travel. People have to get to their jobs because so many offices are still open," he said.
Boroditš also believes that bus services should not be reduced because of semi-empty buses. "The fewer people on public transport, the less the risk to the people themselves."
The bus is safer than the mall
Boroditš also said no one should fear using the buses or trolleybuses.
"I am sure public transport is safe from the virus. Every day we disinfect public transport. We treat all surfaces that a person comes in contact with. Last week we also increased the ability to do additional disinfection during the final stops. I would argue that public transport is much safer than going to a mall or shop," he said.
There is no shortage of bus drivers at the moment, although quite a few of them are at home because of illness or under quarantine as they have returned from holidaying outside of Estonia.
"There are some of these people, and there are more. We have a medical check-up every morning. We also told the drivers if they were feeling unwell they should not come to work. There is an extra check-up every morning before going to the line, the doctor does what he does, and if he thinks there is a danger or a symptom, we also send the person home," Boroditš said.
Boroditš said the number of people on sick leave who work for TLT is not extraordinary but is about the usual number for March.
"A completely normal number of sick people. We were a little ahead of the measures to increase the safety of our employees - we closed the first door and closed a small sanitary zone for managers. I think these measures will help us survive this crisis," Boroditš said.
Boroditš said public transport in Tallinn is the main artery of the city that cannot and should not stop. "As long as the functionality of our city is maintained - working companies, people going to work - it is important to ensure that public transport works," he said.
Public transport in Tallinn is free of charge and ticket checks have stopped
Mayor Kõlvart has decided the purchase of public transport tickets in Tallinn is not required and that the municipal police will not check tickets.
In doing so, the city wants to reduce the number of people-to-people contacts - both when buying a ticket from a bus driver and checking with a municipal police officer.
However, the city recommends that you carefully consider each visit and, whenever possible, use your own means of transport and, whenever possible, use e-services.
Editor: Helen Wright