CURRENT: Estonians believe in buses

The bus has become an integral means of transport. In a sparsely populated country, it has ensured and will continue to ensure a more convenient and faster arrival. The bus is a way of public transport, even a lifestyle.

Today, parcels and other shipments move by bus. You step into the Cargobus, put the parcel on the way, and after a few hours, it arrives. Transporting goods on highways with trucks is now a thing of the past. Today, a community has emerged: buses, parcels and people. A parcel intended for an acquaintance or a neighbour can move with you. This is also caused by a changing life.

We are increasingly talking about a greener footprint. New buses are economical and do not emit as much CO2 as cars. One bus replaces about 40 cars! The fewer four-wheelers that have an impact on the environment, the cleaner the air. It’s been a long time since there have been buses that toss and make noise on the roads. The new vehicles meet stricter Euro requirements. Buses have now Euro 6 engines, which can be used in any European capital. Manufacturers invest more and more in buses.

Today’s reality is carbon-free travel, you pay twenty cents more for the ticket, but you know that your money will plant new trees along the roads and build green areas. Travelling by bus creates positive emotions, and new meeting opportunities and allows you to become a part of the culture with the help of multimedia centres located in the cabin.

Over a century, our bus fleet has changed beyond recognition. In 1922, the first route permits were issued in Tallinn, and in the parlance of the time, you could travel by bus. The first long-distance line was opened. Engineer Julius Vambola first tested the 25-seater Horsch bus between Tallinn and Pärnu. The trip lasted nearly six hours. The ride was expensive. A one-way ticket cost 1000 marks at that time, which was a quarter of a simple worker’s monthly salary. The road conditions were quite bad, the wooden bridges were in a bad state, where the wheels sank through the logs. In 1923, the then Ministry of Roads established a speed limit of 35 km/h for buses on the highway, on bridges and bends the driver had to reduce the speed to 10 km/h. Line permits were issued for a year, and if there was a desire to continue, a new application had to be submitted. In 1929, the Tallinn-Pärnu line passed into the hands of entrepreneur Karl Siitan, the latter introduced modern Renault buses. In the second half of the 1930s, Mootor was the largest bus company in pre-war Estonia. The company managed the lines in and around Tallinn. Also a long-distance line to Pärnu. The engine brought a new quality to the bus industry: drivers were dressed in uniform, and attention was paid to service. There were two drivers in the bus at the same time, one turned the steering wheel and the other handled the passengers’ luggage. Passengers were greeted at the door by a conductor who sold tickets. In 1930, goods were transported by buses in Estonia.

In the post-war period, people wanted to move more. They were driven in truck boxes, which were covered by a tarpaulin. These were staff buses captured by the German army. The latter were brought to Estonia from Köningsberg. We also went to the Tallinn song festival with boxcars.

The beginning of the 1950s brought a big change. The first ZIS 127 buses made in Moscow arrived in Estonia. The cabin had high seats with a lowering backrest, luggage could be placed in a separate room. Above each pair of seats was a lamp for reading, in addition, ventilation windows could be opened. Such buses travelled from Tallinn to Riga, Leningrad, Minsk and Tartu.

In 1956, the first Hungarian-made Ikarus reached us. They had an eye-catching appearance, soft seats inside and panoramic windows in the ceiling. Buses were used both for tourist trips and on suburban routes. For the first time, the cabin was warm in winter, as the heat from the engine was directed under the seats. Soon even more comfortable means of transport arrived in our country, and these Hungarian buses were already called Ikarus Lux. It was the most luxurious intercity bus of its time. Originally, there were a couple of seats for travel attendants and a refrigerator in the back of the cabin. Snacks and drinks were served during the ride. Some consumed more than necessary and drove past their stop. Passenger seats later replaced the refrigerator and the attendant’s seats.

In the spring of 1971, 11 Ikarus 250 buses arrived at the Kopli freight station. People called them «aquariums» because of their large windows. The cabin had places to place hand luggage, a spotlight overhead, an air conditioner inside, and a wardrobe and a refrigerator in the back. In Estonia, they moved mainly on the Pärnu and Tartu lines. Also went to Leningrad, Riga and Vilnius. These buses were used by Intourist to transport foreign tourists. In the 1970s, new modifications of Ikarus arrived in Estonia. The bus became an inseparable companion for our travels.

Re-independence brought buses of Western origin to our roads. Lines to Germany were opened from Tallinn, and Volvos, Scanias and Setras drove there. In the 1990s and after the turn of the century, Mootor international trips took people from Tallinn to several cities in Germany.

Today, the most modern buses of the Baltic region are plying the roads of Estonia. These are Scania Irizar i8 buses operating under the Lux Express brand. Modern salons have multimedia centres and the Internet. Relax seats make you feel like you are in business class on an aeroplane. You sleep, drink coffee and watch a movie, answer e-mails. You can even participate in a web conference while travelling by bus.

Considering our climate, bus transport has a future. There may be new trains, but nobody stands up on the bus. In addition, buying a bus ticket is extremely convenient. With a few clicks, it is possible to get a bus ticket with the Tpilet application. Bus stations are pleasant and clean. They are often places where people interact and meet. While in many countries the bus stations are dreary, we have eye-catching ones. Opened in 1965, Tallinn Bus Station is today a cultural gateway to the capital and the country. The cleanliness and visitor-friendliness here are ahead of most airports.

The article with pictures can be seen on the news portal Postimees! (The article is in Estonian.)