Bus operators hit by emergency situation

Tallinn Bus Station.
Tallinn Bus Station. Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

The emergency situation caused by the coronavirus outbreak has delivered a serious blow to public transport, with passenger numbers down 80 percent. Commercial lines operated exclusively on ticket revenue have been hit the hardest, meaning that intercity coach traffic could cease without state aid.

If Tallinn Bus Station saw 178 daily departures as recently as the beginning of March, that number will fall to just 53 on Monday, "Aktuaalne kaamera" reported on Sunday.

The coronavirus outbreak and emergency situation have lowered the number of intercity passengers by 83 percent.

CEO of Tallinn Bus Station and the TPilet ticket portal Ingmar Roos said that commercial lines have all but completely lost revenue.

"It is likely that coach operators will simply start going bankrupt, becoming insolvent and incapable of offering the service in a matter of weeks," Roos said.

Bus operator Taisto has canceled all of its Monday departures, while everyone else is also in trouble. Minister of Economic Affairs and Infrastructure Taavi Aas said that it is likely the state will have to start commissioning trips to keep intercity bus traffic alive. He said that things are worst regarding southbound trips out of Tartu.

"Of course, it is in the state's interests to retain intercity transport and bus traffic, which is why we will have to find an operator using a tender and start paying them subsidies at one point, as is currently done on the county level," Aas said.

Ingmar Roos said that bus traffic will have ceased by the time the tender process is concluded, adding that should companies go bankrupt, it will not be possible to restore normal service quickly.

Subsidized public transport also needs additional funding as county coach lines need an additional €286,000 and island ferry traffic an additional €575,000 before May.

While the number of train passengers has also fallen by 80 percent, operator Elron is trying to cut costs and has not asked for support yet.

"We have started dialing back departures. There will be further cuts in April, which is also when we will be forced to introduce salary cuts, unfortunately," CEO of Elron Merike Saks said.

Salaries at Elron could be cut by 30 percent, even though the company currently hopes that will not be necessary.


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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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