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Public transport in Oslo: A role model [free access]

December 1, 2013

Oslo has one of the most advanced public transportation systems in Europe. The metro, bus, tram and ferry networks are integrated and the zone-based fare system deploys the latest technologies. During the last five years, growth in public transport use has been about 29 per cent while the use of private cars has remained stable at the 2005 level.

 

Oslo is the capital region of Norway, a highly-developed and oil-rich country with a stable economy. The municipality of Oslo spans 454 square km and is located in the inner part of the Oslo Fjord in South Eastern Norway. The Oslo Region consists of 70 local authorities, including Oslo, Akershus, Buskerud and Østfold and the municipalities surrounding Oslo. It has population of about 1.8 million inhabitants.

 

Key players in public transport

 

Oslo Sporveien AS (Sporveien), erstwhile Kollektivtransportproduksjon AS (KTP), is the operator of the public transportation network in Oslo, Akershus, and Vest fold. The company is fully-owned by the city government and operates under contract with the public transport authority Ruter AS.

 

Ruter AS is the management company for public transport in Oslo and Akershus. It is owned jointly by the Oslo municipality (60 per cent) and the Akershus County Council (40 per cent). Ruter was formed in 2007, following the merger of AS Oslo Sporveier and Stor-Oslo Lokaltrafikk a.s, which were the public transport authorities for Oslo and Akershus, respectively.

 

Almost a quarter of the Norwegian population lives in the area served by Ruter. The 300 million public transport journeys a year by Ruter represent almost 60 per cent of all public transport journeys made in Norway. All public subsidies of public transport services in Oslo and Akershus, with the exception of state subsidies provided to Norwegian State Railways (NSB), are granted through Ruter.

 

Ruter has two subsidiaries:

 

Ruter itself owns no buses, trams, boats or metros. Fleet operations are carried out by various operator companies that have a contract with Ruter. The metro and the tram are permanent contract partners, whereas bus and boat operators are awarded contracts after competitive tendering.

 

The public transport operators are indicated in Table 1.

 

Table 1: Public transport operators in Oslo

Mode

Operator

Metro

Oslo T-banedrift AS

Tram

Oslotrikken AS

Bus

Nobina AS, Norgesbuss AS, Nettbuss ØST AS and Unibuss AS

Boat

Oslofergene AS, Skibs AS Bygdøyfergene and Norled AS (formerly Tide Sjø)

Source: Reuter

 

Existing public transport

 

Public transportation in Oslo comprises buses, trams, metro (t-bane), ferries, city bikes and local trains.

 

Metro

 

The metro is one of the largest in Europe and commenced operations in 1898. It comprises six lines, which together span 84.2 km covering 90 stations (15 underground). The farthest station is 17.3 km from the city centre. In 1993, the east and west sections of the city network were connected through a common tunnel under the city centre. The system deploys 115 model MX300 three-car trains, the world’s biggest uniform metro fleet provided by Germany-based Siemens. The average daily ridership is 200,000 passengers.

 

Table 2 highlights the growth in the metro network and usage during 2008-12.

 

Table 2: Performance of the Oslo metro network during 2008-12

Particulars

2012

2011

2010

2009

2008

Journey (million)

82

81

76

74

73

Customer km (million)

492

484

456

446

437

Vehicle km (million)

30.2

28.9

25.1

21.9

21.5

Train km (million)

6.1

6.1

5.7

5.7

5.

Seat km (million)

4,022

3,842

3,341

2,871

2,769

Route length (km)

86

80

78

71

76

Energy consumption per customer km

0.16

0.16

0.16

0.16

0.18

Transport revenues (million)

644

625

636

655

631

Subsidy (million)

679

695

642

506

427

Expenditure (million)

1,361

1,345

1,301

1,184

1,084

Cost/journey

16.58

16.68

17.13

15.93

14.89

Source: Ruter annual report 2012

 

Tram

 

The tramway comprises six lines, which together span 39.6 km covering 99 stops. The system deploys about 70 trams. The average daily ridership is 110,000 passengers.

 

Table 3 highlights the growth in the tram network and usage during 2008-12.

 

Table 3: Performance of the Oslo tram network during 2008-12

Particulars

2012

2011

2010

2009

2008

Journey (million)

48

48

45

43

40

Customer km (million)

153

153

145

137

127

Vehicle km (million)

4.1

4.0

4.0

3.9

4.0

Seat km (million)

593

571

577

568

585

Route length (km)

41

41

41

39

41

Energy consumption per customer km

0.15

0.14

0.16

0.19

0.22

Transport revenues (million)

373

352

362

353

363

Subsidy (million)

351

369

313

323

338

Expenditure (million)

729

728

680

682

706

Cost/journey

15.26

15.20

15.05

15.93

17.78

Source: Ruter annual report 2012

 

Bus network

 

There are 260 buses that operate on 52 bus routes serving hundreds of bus stops. The stops have weather-control mechanisms and are within easy reach of almost all neighbourhoods. The buses are single or articulated and their routes are connected to countryside buses, which are distinct from the Oslo public transportation system buses and use a different fare system.

 

Table 4 highlights the growth in the bus network and usage during 2008-12.

Table 4: Performance of the bus network during 2008-12

Particulars

2012

2011

2010

2009

2008

Journey (million)

133

126

119

109

101

Customer km (million)

1,074

999

926

851

786

Vehicle km (million)

51.0

49.2

49.2

48.1

47.7

Seat km (million)

2,721

2568

256

2509

2500

Energy consumption per customer km

0.27

0.30

0.31

0.33

0.35

Transport revenues (million)

1,165

1,162

1,056

1,003

1,044

Subsidy (million)

901

798

787

821

749

Expenditure (million)

2,076

1,971

1,854

1,834

1,805

Cost/journey

15.58

15.65

15.55

16.75

17.83

Source: Ruter annual report 2012

 

Operational and financial performance

 

In 2012, buses accounted for the highest share in total journeys made through public transport, followed by the metro at 28 per cent, and trams at 16 per cent.

 

Figure 1: Share of different modes in public transport journeys in 2012 (%)

 gmtfeature12_469

Source: Ruter annual report 2012

 

In 2012, Ruter provided 37 million departures with a capacity of 7,336 million seat-km. The average seat occupancy including standing room places was 23 per cent. Route length covered 3,300 km with more than 3,000 stations and stops. The number of daily journeys made on the public transport system has grown from 244 million in 2008 to 295 million in 2012.

 

Table 5 shows the growth in public transport usage during 2008-12.

Table 5: Growth in public transport in Oslo during 2008-12

Particulars

2012

2011

2010

2009

2008

Journeys (million)

295

285

271

256

244

Customer km (million)

1,719

1,636

1,526

1,433

1,350

Journey km (million)

85.3

82.1

78.3

73.8

73.2

Seat km (million)

7,336

6,981

6,486

5,948

5,854

Departures (x 1,000)

3,741

3,605

3,527

3,440

3,473

Seat occupancy (%)

23

23

24

24

23

Journey revenues (million)

2,915

2,938

2,878

2,782

2,802

Subsidy (million)

2,724

2,585

2,417

2,282

1,930

Expenditure (million)

5,787

5,612

5,388

5,156

4,812

Operational profit/loss (million)

-16.5

14.1

0.2

-7.3

-23.6

Profit/loss after extraordinary items (million)

1.4

6.3

2.9

1.0

0.2

Debt to equity ratio (%)

84

85

85

80

70

Solidity (equity share) (%)

16

15

15

20

30

Working capital ratio

1.26

1.28

1.25

1.23

1.27

Transport revenues/journey (including trains)

9.89

10.29

10.64

10.85

11.49

Expenditure (excluding trains)

19.31

19.64

19.57

20.06

19.61

Source: Ruter

 

Fare collection system

 

A new fare and zone system was launched in 2011. The introduction of the new system has helped reduce fares for longer journeys, especially those within, and to and from, Akershus. The system was funded by means of a subsidy increase in Akershus and a real increase in ticket prices in Oslo, where the designed city zone was enlarged to incorporate parts of the neighbouring municipality, Baerum. Transport revenues per journey, that is, fares customers actually pay, fell from NOK10.29 in 2011 to NOK9.89 million in 2012, showing a decline of 3.9 per cent.

 

There are eight zones in Oslo and Akershus (1, 2V, 2S, 2Ø, 3S, 3Ø, 4S and 4N) as well as four border zones (3V, 4V, 4SØ and 4Ø) where Ruter co-operates with neighbouring counties. The Oslo region is in Zone 1. In principle, the price for the journey is calculated based on how many zones the journey includes. The user pays for a maximum of five zones for each single ticket, and for a maximum of three zones for each period ticket. Single tickets, ticket coupons and transportation passes can be used on all public transport within the city limits, including NSB local trains and boats to the local islands, Bygdøy and Hovedøya.

 

A flat fare is charged at the time of check-in. One or two-zone period tickets are valid for specific zones, while those for three or more zones are not associated with particular zones. A single ticket is not associated with particular zones; the user specifies the number of zones but does not identify them.

 

Smartphone tickets

 

The first mobile ticket for Smartphones was launched in Oslo in December 2012, starting with single tickets. This service was very well received. By May 2013, more than 220,000 people had downloaded the app, and about 10,000 mobile tickets were being sold every day. In May 2013, a second version of the application was launched offering 24-hour, 7-day and 30-day tickets in addition to single tickets. By the end of July 2013, more than two million tickets had been sold on Smartphone applications since the first launch in December 2012.

 

Travelcard

 

The travelcard is a plastic card on which the passenger can carry tickets or top-up with pay-as-you-go credit. The same card can be loaded with a new ticket or topped-up with credit. There are more than 700,000 travelcards in use in Oslo and Akershus.

 

At any one time, the user can have up to two types of Ruter period tickets on the card – one "active" and one "pending". The ticket on the travelcard can be renewed at a ticket machine or at Ruter's sales outlets.

 

Pay-as-you-go

 

Pay-as-you-go credit can be added to the Travelcard for purchase of Ruter's tickets. With the pay-as-you-go credit, the user is spared the on-board surcharge in Zone 1.

 

Tourist pass

 

Transport within Zone 1 (Oslo) and Zone 2 is free with the Oslo Pass. The Oslo app is available free for iphone, ipad and Android users. It guides tourists for events, attractions, restaurants, activities, etc. in the area.

 

Smart card for city bikes

 

An electronic smart card, Citybike Card, which costs NOK90, is needed to use the bikes. The user inserts the card at the stand and is entitled to take and use a bicycle for up to three hours at a time. Citybike Cards may be purchased online.

 

Recent initiatives and future plans

 

In August 2013, Jernbaneverket and the Norwegian Public Roads Administration announced plans to conduct a joint study to identify the best way to develop and expand all modes of public transport in the city. In particular, the study will look at how rail services can be improved in Oslo and Akershus. It is expected to be completed by 2015.

 

In May 2013, Skanska Norway secured the NOK357-million contract for constructing the subway at Løren in Oslo. Work will commence in June 2013 and is scheduled to be completed in October 2015.

 

Future plans

 

By 2020, Ruter aims to make public transport the preferred mode of travel and to phase out fossil fuels from public transport.

 

Oslo Package 3 was originally a financing scheme for the expansion of roads and public transportation infrastructure in Oslo and Akershus between 2008 and 2027. In May 2012, the Oslo Package 3 agreement was extended to 2032. The overall budget over the period 2008 to 2032 is approximately NOK90 billion and is financed from toll charges (about NOK60 billion), in addition to central and local government funding.

 

The plan proposes significant investments and upgrades of railway infrastructure in the region that are to be financed by the central government, improved public transport services (new services and increased efficiency/capacity), an increase of about 5-10 per cent in public transport journeys (more during rush hours) and increased public transport versus private cars.

 

The City of Oslo, Agency for Planning and Building Services, Department of Urban Development, is undertaking the Fjord City project that involves comprehensive urban restructuring of the downtown area and the waterfront. In the outermost areas of Fjord City’s three main promontories are spaces for public leisure, recreation and contact with nature, both at land and sea. These are Filipstad, Vippetangen and Alna river outlet. A tram system will be developed and supplemented by a local and regional bus service. In addition, space will be allocated for connection to the railway.

 

A vehicle strategy is being prepared, which will help to find the right balance between the age of the buses, their environmental standard, life cycle costs, etc.

 

The way forward

 

Going forward, moderate, domestic demand-led growth is projected to continue. Some issues, however, remain. Even though customer satisfaction levels have improved overall, there are problems related to inner city traffic. Customer satisfaction levels with metro, tram and city bus services have declined. This is partly attributed to fares and partly because of traffic congestion. In 2012, average journey speeds remained at about 16 km/hr. Technical problems with the rolling stock also exist, and as a result, a significant percentage of planned and announced departures do not run on schedule. In 2012, it affected more than 600,000 customers. Nevertheless, Oslo’s public transport system is one of the best in the world. It is driven not only economic growth but also by the motivation to protect the environment by reducing the use of private vehicles. The priorities of the passengers have echoed with those of the operators. Some buses and boats are already using biogas from sewage treatment plants and kitchen waste, in addition to biodiesel, bio-ethanol and compressed natural gas.

 

(1 Norwegian Krone [NOK] = 0.16 USD)