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Transport For Members

Will Stavanger's free public transport scheme work?

Frazer Norwell
Frazer Norwell - [email protected]
Will Stavanger's free public transport scheme work?
Will Stavanger's free public transport be a success? Pictured is a lake in Stavanger. Photo by Vlad Kiselov on Unsplash

Public transport in Stavanger will become free in July, the city's local authority has announced. So, will the scheme be a success?

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The municipality of Stavanger will offer free public transport, including buses, trains and ferries, from July 1st. The new scheme will cost around 200 million kroner.

The decision was made after the Labour Party, the People's Party - FNB, the Greens, the Red Party, the Centre Party, and the Socialist Left Party reached an agreement on the issue at the local level.

As a result, Stavanger Municipality becomes the first large Norwegian city to finance public transport for its residents fully.

Who is eligible for free public transport?

Stavanger Municipality only plans to make public transport free for residents in Stavanger. This means tourists and those visiting the city from other parts of Norway will still be required to pay for fares.

At present, a single bus ticket costs 42 kroner and a monthly pass costs 630 kroner.

Free public transport will apply throughout the municipalities of Stavanger, Sandnes, Sola and Randaberg for residents of Stavanger. Stavanger Municipality has encouraged neighbouring local authorities to offer their residents free public transportation.

The Mayor of Sola, Tom Henning Slethei, has said they are unlikely to offer free public transport.

Those hoping to make the most of the free public transport will be required to prove that they are a resident of Stavanger Municipality to ticket inspectors. For example, this can mean being registered as a resident of the municipality in the National Population Register.

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How long will the city offer free public transport, and how will it be paid for?

Stavanger's Mayor, Kari Nessa Nordtun of the Labour Party, said the city had the money to offer free public transport after consistently posting strong financial results.

However, money for the scheme is only guaranteed until the summer of 2024. The reason for this is that the latter half of the year will see local elections. The election could see a new majority form in the city which wishes to scrap the scheme and spend the money elsewhere.

For example, The Conservative Party's mayoral candidate is against the decision. If other parties wish to reverse the decision, fares could be reintroduced from next summer and perhaps earlier.

How the city will pay for public transport is complicated also. Kolumbus is the public transport group responsible for Stavanger. Meanwhile, Rogaland County is the authority responsible for public transport in the region.

Stavanger will be paying the money to Kolumbus for the revenue they will lose from tickets in the city being free for residents.

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Acting head of the transport committee in Rogaland County, Reid Ivar Bjorland Dahl, has told public broadcaster NRK that it is actually challenging to determine whether the 200 million kroner will be enough to fund the scheme.

"They have based the figure on the budgeted ticket revenue from the residents of Stavanger this year. But if more people travel by public transport when the bus becomes free, as they wish, the price will skyrocket. Here one probably has to look more closely at what it will actually cost," he explained.

Why is public transport becoming free, and will it work?

The municipality wishes to reduce the number of people using their cars.

"For many, the car is and will still be necessary, but many people are in a situation where they can get by without a car or cut the use of a second car in their household.

"We hope that the free bus ensures that more people try to travel more by public transport in their everyday lives, preferably in combination with increased bicycle use," Mayor Kari Nessa Nordtun said.

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It has set the target of having at least 70 per cent of passengers' journeys take place on foot, by bicycle or by public transport.

Ingunn Hadagard from the Norwegian Automobile Association (NAF) has told public broadcaster NRK that Stavanger currently has the worst public transport coverage out of all of Norway's biggest cities.

"Measurements of the offer in the 14 largest cities have shown that Stavanger has Norway's worst public transport coverage. We think the city would have done better if they used the money on more routes and more frequent departures rather than making it free to travel with a mediocre offer," she told NRK.

Reid Ivar Bjorland Dahl has also suggested that the money would be better invested in more routes and busses for travellers.

The cities of Moss and Fredrikstad have previously tested free busses. In 2019, both cities found that the number of those using the busses while they were free doubled. Earlier this year, free buses were introduced for parts of Moss.

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