Even though there are more and more people traveling between cities each week during the emergency situation, busses are far from being full of people, which means that larger bus companies are restoring their lines gradually and carefully. They have had to pay for every kilometer of the lines for two months now, meaning that less profitable lines won't be opened at all at present.
This Friday's bus line schedules show that the connections between Tallinn and other bigger cities are quite sparse.
There are five departures between two bus companies from Tallinn to Tartu and the same amount in the other direction. The same goes for Narva and Haapsalu. Pärnu has a little better connection with the capital city, whither eight buses depart every day.
The most difficult case is Viljandi, since there are no departures from Tallinn to Viljandi or vice versa.
This is far from the ordinary May schedule, but there are understandable reasons for it. Bigger bus companies like Lux Express and Go Bus promise that there will be more and more departures as time goes on. Lines with fewer passengers have to wait longer, however.
Quiet restoration after two months of paying to keep services going
Lux Express´s statistics show that the average percentage of the occupancy in the buses in April was 17 percent, and bus drivers had to drive with empty buses as well, company chief executive Janno Ritsberg said. The first days of May have been better though - for May 1 and 2, the percentage was 39.
Go Bus´ statistics show something similar. Both of the companies are starting to gradually restore the bus connections, but some lines are forced to stay a part of history for now.
"Reopening lines that have been in the danger of being closed due to the lack of passengers can take longer, and in some case, may not happen at all," manager of Go Bus Andrei Mändla said.
However, the current restrictions mean that the occupancy of the busses can´t increase enough for the reopening of the lines to be profitable, Ritsberg notes. For that reason, Lux Express made a proposal some time ago that the state should compensate those buses that have stayed empty due to restrictions.
"If the emergency situation continues, it means that the occupancy of the buses can be 50 percent at best. This is too low to reach zero," Ritsberg said.
Two months of restrictions mean that the companies have dealt with having to sub their own routes.
"We have surcharged for every kilometer for the last two months. This situation can´t stay like that for long," Ritsberg added.
Mändla said that Go Bus' position is that the state could help the companies at least during the time of restoring the lines.
Taisto is waiting until the end of the emergency situation
Taisto Liinid canceled all of their departures on March 23.
The representative of the company, Jan Landrat, told ERR that when the emergency situation ends, they are planning to reintroduce their bus lines gradually.
"We are waiting for further information on the emergency situation not being extended. If it ends with May 17, we will get our bus driving on May 18," Landrat said.
Landrat added that it´s hard to predict which routes will be served and on what dates. "We will decide based on the demand," he noted.
Landrat said that reopening a line is dependent on the health situation, whether the borders are being opened, whether people start to travel, and what restrictions will be established on public transport.
The Road Administration (Maanteeamet) has given bus companies transition time, which means that the firms don´t need to reopen the lines immediately or announce which lines will be served and which not.
Landrat said this transition time is about 180 days, but the Head of the Public Transport Department at the Road Administration told ERR this week that bus companies have 90 days to notify of changes.
New departures are coming on Friday, May 8
Lux Express and Go Bus are planning new departures from the end of this week, and next week.
According to Janno Ritsberg, Lux Express has been adding new departures for the last month, but everything has been based on demand. Departures will be added between major cities from Friday, May 8, and throughout the following week, he said. Additional departures will be on the routes between Tallinn and Tartu, Tallinn and Narva and Tallinn and Pärnu. Twice a day, the bus will run between Tallinn-Kuressaare, Narva-Tartu, and Tartu-Pärnu.
The smaller the population centers, the more closely the situation is monitored. For example, departures will not be added to the Tallinn-Haapsalu route yet, but occupancy will be monitored, Ritsberg added.
Andrei Mändla said that Go Bus will start 20 departures in different directions again in two weeks from May 8; the bus connection with Saaremaa will also be restored.
"There may be more departures during this time," Mändla continued.
Editor: Roberta Vaino