Friday, 30 May 2014

Malmö, Sweden

The city of Malmö is the third largest in Sweden, with a population of around 300,000 people.  It is located in Sweden's southernmost county, Skåne.  Skåne is also sometimes called by its traditional name, Scania.  The commercial vehicle manufacturer which carries this name was founded in Malmö.

Public transport in Malmö is co-ordinated by Skånetrafiken, which is responsible for the public transport system across Skåne county.

A core network of high-frequency routes numbered 1 to 8 form the backbone of Malmö's bus network.  These services run at least every 10 minutes on weekdays.

Buses operating the urban network wear a common green livery although they are provided by at least two companies, Veolia and Nobina, under contract to Skånetrafiken.

Many of the vehicles used on these services were articulated, with three doors.  All those I saw were gas-powered.

Although Malmö was the birthplace of the Scania vehicle manufacturer, none of the buses I noted on the city's urban bus network were built by Scania.  Most were built by Volvo, with a small number from German manufacturer MAN.

As well as articulated vehicles, a number of standard single-deckers were operating.  These, too, were invariably gas-powered and had three doors.

The core high-frequency routes are complemented by five further bus routes, numbered from 31 to 35.  These operate at lower frequencies, generally every 15, 20 or 30 minutes.

As with the core high-frequency routes, these services were operating with a mix of standard and articulated gas-powered buses.

A network of bus services runs into Malmö from the surrounding Skåne county.  Buses wear a yellow livery.  All the vehicles I saw had two doors and three axles.




Amongst the assortment of buses built by other manufacturers, I did find an example of a Scania bus operating an interurban service.

A couple of longer-distance services are branded as SkåneExpressen.

I found coach-specification vehicles in use on these services.

Flygbussarna provides a dedicated coach service links Malmö with its airport, 30 km from the city centre.  This service is not part of the Skånetrafiken network.

Like many cities in the western world, Malmö closed its tram system.  Malmö's last tram ran in 1973.  A museum tram (website in Swedish only) runs through Slottsparken, a park close to the centre of Malmö, linking the city's technical museum with its library.  Notably, the heritage line was purpose-built over a route which had not formed part of Malmö's original tram system.

The museum tram operates only during weekend afternoons from the end of May to the beginning of October.  I visited Malmö outside the tram operating season.

This image (left), taken at the terminus by the city library, illustrates the minimal infrastructure provided.

In the image below, Malmö's "Turning Torso" building looms over the tram line.

There may be no trams, and there is also no metro system.  However there is continued investment in Malmö's transport system.

In 2010, the Citytunnel opened.  This suburban rail tunnel passes beneath the city centre.  The tunnel is used by domestic services, and by Öresundståg services which use the Øresund Link bridge and tunnel linking Sewden with Denmark.  Three trains per hour link Malmö with Copenhagen, with the journey taking around half an hour.

The next development is occurring on the bus network.  With growing patronage on its public transport system, the city is investing in bus rapid transit.  A fleet of bi-articulated, gas-powered hybrid buses is due to enter service on 1st June 2014 on route 5.  Route 5 will be extended from the central railway station into the regenerated docklands, and will be branded Malmöexpressen from this date.

As well as new buses, route 5 will benefit from extensive bus priority measures.  Outside the city centre, bus lanes are being installed along the centre of the road.  Infrastructure work was ongoing in May 2014 when I visited Malmö.

Bus stops along these bus lanes are being provided on "islands".

Traffic calming measures are being installed too, along with crossings to help pedestrians reach the bus stops safely from the pavement.

At some stops, the crossings are being provided with traffic lights as a further measure to help pedestrians.

In this image, an articulated bus on route 5 passes new infrastructure under construction.

The Malmöexpressen website in Swedish only gives more information about the bus rapid transit project.

Fares and ticketing

A common tariff applies across Skånetrafiken bus and rail services county.  Fares are based on a zonal system.  Most of Malmö lies within a single zone, although some outlying suburbs are across the boundary in a neighbouring zone.  Single fare tickets are valid for 3 hours, interchange is permitted.  24-hour and 72-hour tickets allowing unlimited travel within Malmö and adjacent zones, or across the entire Skåne county, are also available

Tickets cannot be bought for cash on board buses or trains.  Tickets can be bought in advance from railway stations and a number of retail outlets.  A mobile phone ticketing app is also available, while the "Jojo" smartcard is another alternative.  On the yellow interurban buses, tickets can be bought on board using a debit or credit card, however this facility is not available on the green urban buses.

Further information is available on Skånetrafiken's website.

Sunday, 18 May 2014

Maastricht, Netherlands

With elections to the European Parliament happening later this week, it seems an appropriate opportunity to take a look at a town whose name is closely linked with the European Union (EU).  The EU was established through a treaty signed in 1992 in the town of Maastricht.

Maastricht, in the southern Netherlands, is home to around 120,000 people.  The town's public transport system is provided by buses.

At the time of my visit, in March 2014, these were operated by Veolia (website in Dutch only).

Ten routes, numbered 1 to 10, operate solely within Maastricht.

Standard single-deck buses, many with three doors, are used on routes within the town.

Several bus routes operate in both directions along Grote Gracht, a narrow street in the heart of Maastricht.

As the street is too narrow for buses to pass, their entry into Grote Gracht is controlled by traffic signals.

Further routes operate out from Maastricht to surrounding settlements.

Two-door single-deckers are used on these services.

Not all bus services serve the heart of Maastricht.  The focal point for the town's bus services is a small interchange outside the railway station.  This is located a few minutes' walk from the town centre, across the River Maas.

The border with Germany lies around 20 kilometres to the east of Maastricht.

Route 50 operates from Maastricht across the border, taking Dutch buses into the German city of Aachen.

Rather closer to Maastricht is the border with Belgium, which runs along the western fringe of the town.  Several cross-border bus services operate into Maastricht from Belgium.  Most are provided by De Lijn, operator of bus services across the Flemish-speaking regions of Belgium.

As well as standard single-deckers, articulated buses operate into Maastricht from Belgium.

There is also an infrequent service into Maastricht from Liège, in the French-speaking Walloon region of Belgium.  This service, which generally runs every 2½ hours, is provided by TEC (website in French only).

Ticketing on Veolia's bus services uses the Dutch national smart card, the OV-Chipkaart.  This card can be used on local transport services (bus, tram, metro and rail) throughout the Netherlands.  It can also be used across the border into Germany on route 50 from Maastricht to Aachen.  Single fares comprise a flat fee plus a variable fee based on the number of kilometres travelled.  For journeys requiring interchange between buses, the flat fee is not charged a second time if you board the second bus within 35 minutes of boarding the first one.  At the time of writing, the flat fee is €0.87.

De Lijn and TEC do not participate in OV-Chipkaart.  Separate fares are charged by these providers.

The national borders around Maastricht do not present an obstacle to the euregioticket.  This ticket is valid on buses and some local rail services across the Maas-Rhine region which covers neighbouring regions of the southern Netherlands, north eastern Belgium and the westernmost part of Germany.  I have written about the euregioticket in a separate post.

There are no trams in Maastricht, at least, not at present.  There is, however, a proposal to build a light rail line linking Maastricht with the Belgian town of Hasselt.  Trains will run on-street through the centre of Maastricht.  More information can be found on the Flanders - Maastricht Tram website.