Rising fuel prices push public transport use to pre-pandemic levels

Elron train.
Elron train. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

Record high fuel prices in Estonia and the relaxation of pandemic restrictions have pushed long-distance public transport use to pre-pandemic levels.

Compared to the beginning of the year, train company Elron has seen a 40 percent increase in passengers.

"There is an increase on all routes, but if we compare with the pre-pandemic times, we see that the longer routes, Tallinn—Tartu, Tallinn—Narva, Tallinn—Viljandi, are the ones where the growth has been highest. We have more passengers there than there were before the pandemic," Elron sales manager Ronnie Kongo said.

Coach company Lux Express has seen a 20 percent increase in passengers, board member Ingmar Roos told ERR. This is down to the pandemic but mostly rising fuel costs, he said.

Sales on several routes this spring were still down by approximately 10 percent compared to 2019, but there has been a quick bounce-back due to fuel prices.

"For example, Tartu—Pärnu, Tallinn—Pärnu, these are the lines where we have reached the pre-pandemic level. In the case of Tartu—Pärnu, the number of trips has increased by 5 to 10 percent since the pre-pandemic period," said Roos.

The rise in public transport usage is also shown by declining sales at gas stations. The Estonian Oil Association said gas sales have decreased by 7-10 percent this month and a similar pattern has been seen this spring.

Thursday evening's current affairs show "Aktuaalne kaamera" spoke to several drivers who said their consumption habits have changed in recent months.

"I have started to travel more by train. If we think that going to Tartu three or four times a month, for example, is €50 but at the same time a tank full of fuel is about €120, then the difference is quite noticeable," said Birgita.

"My husband is already using public transport, but it is still not possible for me. But the thought is there," Anna said.

However, despite the rising level of interest, not all transport companies can respond to demand. Elron does not have enough trains to add additional carriages.

Several weeks ago,  Lux Express increased domestic and international departures and will do so again in the summer.


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Editor: Helen Wright

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