TLT: Tallinn roadworks behind public transport delays of up to half-an-hour

Construction work in Tallinn's Kesklinn in May 2023.
Construction work in Tallinn's Kesklinn in May 2023. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

Public transport in Tallinn is being held up by between 15 and 25 minutes on average, as a result of ongoing and extensive roadworks, AS Tallinna Linnatransport (TLT) says, citing its own data.

TLT is a city-run company, as is the transport administration overseeing the roadworks.

A Tallinn deputy mayor said rather candidly that perhaps better analysis might be carried out ahead of road-works of this scale, in future.

Gonsiori, one of the affected, major thoroughfares, was last dug up just five years ago.

TLT service director Hannes Falten told ERR told ERR Wednesday that: "The situation is bad, but not so much as to make it a tragedy."

"TLT is doing its best," he added.

"I sometimes look at it this way: When we refurbish our home kitchen or bathroom, life gets disrupted for two or three weeks, but the City of Tallinn is much bigger than that, meaning everything gets affected a lot more," Falten reasoned.

"Before May 9, we experienced delayys of three to six minutes during normal periods, and 15-25 minutes during peak hours. Yesterday, when Filtri and Ahtri streets were also closed; Filtri road temporarily, fortunately, but Ahtri road longer, this has caused delays of up to 50 minutes," adding that public transport drivers have been advised to deal with the situations calmly.

May 9 was "victory day" and led to additional road closures on Filtri tee, which leads to a cemetery.

Wednesday's traffic situation was not as bad as that experienced on Tuesday, he added.

Several major city center roadworks projects have come at once, supposedly due to procurement delays in some cases and funding time-frames in others; the head of Tallinn's transport department resigned Wednesday, though Mayor Mihhail Kõlvart says this was not "directly related" to the disruption.

While vehicle traffic and public transport are heavily affected, even pedestrians are finding it much harder to neogitate their way round.

Tallinn Deputy Mayor Vladimir Svet (Center) said that there are certainly many takeaways already to be drawn from the traffic disruption – which Svet's boss, Mayor Kõlvart, said could be expected to last to year-end at least.

Svet said: "I think the most important of these is that, in the future, when Tallinn starts to rebuild these large, important thoroughfares, it might best be wise for us to also order analysis of temporary traffic management, before we even get to tender stage."

At the same time, there is no other way to obtain a better-working urban space than via such large-scale roadworks, Svet said.

This includes even pedestrian areas, many of which are being landscaped.

Svet also said that the city's plans had also been significantly affected by Covid, and also the War in Ukraine – in the latter case as procurements were put on hold until more stability in the economy was found.

In the case of the latest addition to the litany of major projects, Utilitas' announcement yesterday that it would be digging up Liivalaia, a major route in central Tallinn, to put in new pipelines, Svet said that legislation does not permit barring the company from doing so, if it so wished.

The details of this particular work have not been finalized yet, he added.

Nonetheless, taking a car spells long waits in traffic, waiting for public transport means long delays, walking to temporary bus stops, route detours, and in the case of trams full cancellations in some cases – plus the same traffic disruption.

Tempers have sometimes bubbled over too; Hannes Falten at TLT said that car drivers get angry about the amount of space buses, trolleybuses and trams take up, while bus passengers get frustrated by private vehicles being in the same lane with them.

Radically changing the state of affairs is, Falten added, "unfortunately not within our competence".

"At the moment, we are providing the service as it comes. Some lines have an unhindered schedule, others are experiencing minor delays."

Falten also suggested that Estonian driving culture in any case requires a shake-up, with the need to be more courteous and considerate perhaps even more obvious now, than before.

TLT has, since the Old City Harbor tram extension began last month, reviewed its public transport schedule and delays, via GPS devices every bus, tram and trolleybus is equipped with.

Vladimir Svet added that since summer is often quieter in the capital (with the schools and universities out, people on vacation and often out of the city altogether, at their country retreats-ed.) more progress can be made then, hence the rationale in starting much of the work in April and May, though even then, the disruption will overrun far beyond the end of summer.

TLT does not operate the sole public transport to be found in the capital – county line buses linking the city to the commuter belt and beyond, and inter-city, and international, long-distance buses also start and end their journeys in central Tallinn.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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