Tuesday 6 September 2016

Vilnius, Lithuania

6th September 1991 is a key date in the history of Lithuania.  It was on this date that the Soviet Union formally recognised Lithuania as an independent state (although Lithuania had unilaterally declared itself independent eighteen months earlier).

I visited Vilnius, Lithuania's capital city, in Spring 2016.

Unlike many of the Eastern European cities I have visited, there is no tram system in Vilnius.  There is, however, an extensive trolleybus network comprising 18 routes.

The trolleybus system is operated by Vilniaus Viešasis Transportas (VVT).

A quarter of a century on from achieving independence from the Soviet Union, the trolleybus system still has echoes of the previous era.

Of the trolleybuses operating on the streets of Vilnius, a considerable number date from the period when Soviet rule ended.




The trolleybus in this image is passing a monument to The Baltic Way, a 1989 protest against continued Soviet rule which took place across Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.  The monument uses the three colours of the Lithuanian national flag.


Although many of the older trolleybuses show only a route number, on a board in the windscreen, some display their route number and destination.

A number of trolleybuses have received advertising over their lower panels.

Newer, low-floor trolleybuses are also used.  Almost all of these are long, three-axle vehicles.



This one (below and right) carries signwriting to emphasise the environmental credentials of trolleybuses.


Although almost all of the newer trolleybuses are long vehicles with three axles, there are two less lengthy vehicles built to the standard two-axle layout.  These were built locally.


By chance, I was able to get this image showing three of Vilnius' trolleybus types together:

I didn't see any articulated trolleybuses while I was in Vilnius.  However, there are three such vehicles still active in the Lithuanian capital. 

RLT photogrpahed this one, earlier in 2016. 

The trolleybus network is supplemented by a number of bus services.  Most of these are operated by VVT.

The latest buses in the fleet have three sets of doors and carry a silver and grey colour scheme.

These vehicles are powered by natural gas, rather than diesel.



As I had found in Riga, the bus route numbering takes no account of the trolleybus route numbers.  Some numbers are used both by buses and by trolleybuses, but the identically-numbered routes may have little in common with each other.

Bus route 10, for example, bears no relation to the trolleybus route carrying the same number.

Six bus routes, numbered 1G, 2G, 3G, 4G, 5G and 6G, operate as limited-stop services at relatively high frequencies.

These routes are not related to either the bus routes or to the trolleybus routes with similar numbers - so the 1G has little in common with either of the routes numbered 1.

Older buses wear blue and yellow colours.

Many of the older vehicles had previously operated in other cities, particularly Germany and Scandinavia, before being acquired for operation in Vilnius.




Some of the older buses have been converted to run on natural gas in place of diesel.

This vehicle carries the "Biogasbuss" label above its front doors.


As well as standard single-deckers, a considerable number of articulated buses also operate in Vilnius.

Some carry the grey and silver colour scheme.



Others, particularly some of the older vehicles, carry the blue and yellow colours.




While some of the articulated buses acquired second-hand have been repainted into the blue and yellow colours, there are plenty which still carry the liveries of their previous owners and operators.



This blue livery is a clue that these buses have previously operated in Munich.


This one still carries "StadtLinie" branding on its blue stripe, indicating it came from a German-speaking city.

I have traced it to Wuppertal.

There are also some articulated buses in an anonymous all-white scheme.

These vehicles had previously operated in Amsterdam, but have lost the livery they wore there.

As well as standard and articulated buses, there are also some smaller vehicles in use.

I found them operating on route 88, which runs through the streets of Vilnius' old town, and on route 11.



Both routes were being operated with a mix of small single-deckers and minibuses.


Although most of the buses are operated by VVT, a handful of routes are provided by other operators under contract to VVT.  These routes remain an integral part of the Vilnius bus network.

Like many in the VVT fleet, this vehicle appears to have been acquired second-hand.


I did note some new vehicles in use too.

With thanks to RLT for kindly providing this image.

There is a rail link from Vilnius' main station to the airport, a few kilometres to the south of the city.  The main station is itself a couple of kilometres from the heart of Vilnius.

Several bus routes also provide links to the airport.

These include routes 1 and 2, from the main station... stop route 3G, to and from the centre of Vilnius...


... and route 88, which runs through the old town.

Fares on Vilnius' public transport network are simple.  A single ticket can be bought on boarding, from the bus driver.  These tickets, costing €1  at the time of writing, are valid only for one journey without interchange.  They must be stamped in a validaiton machine on board the vehicle.

Electronic tickets are also available.  These are cheaper, and also allow interchange.  Whereas some public transport systems in other cities charge different fares according to distance, in Vilnius, the fare depends on the time taken to complete the journey.

A fare for up to 30 minutes, including interchanging, costs €0.64, with a €0.93 fare allowing travel for up to an hour.  Longer period tickets are available for periods of 30, 90, 180 and 270 days are available as electronic tickets.  A cheaper version of each of these tickets, valid only for travel on work days, is also available.

Full details of fares and tickets is available on the Vilnius Transport website, which also has timetables, route maps and other useful information about the Lithuanian capital's transport system.

Longer distance bus services link Vilnius with places beyond the city.

These operate from the coach station, adjacent to the main railway station.  Long-distance coaches to other destinations in Lithuania and beyond operate from here.

Links from Vilnius to places nearby are also provided by minibuses.

These start from outside the main railway station.

Details of these minibuses and the services they provide is difficult to find.

Sightseeing bus tours of Vilnius are provided by at least two companies.

Although open-top double-deckers are used for tours in many cities, this is not so in Vilnius.

Vilnius City Tour use minicoaches.  The sides can be open in good weather.

City Tour use open-top coaches on their tours of Vilnius.

Minibus tours to the historic town of Trakai, about 25 kilometres west of Vilnius, are provided by Vilnius City Tour.

Lithuania is home to three funicular railways.  Two of these are in the city of Kaunas, about 100 kilometres to the west of Vilnius.

The third, and most recently-built, is in Vilnius.

It cannot realistically be described as part of the public transport system, as its purpose is to carry tourists to and from the remains of the castle, on a hill overlooking the city centre.


The number of cities with cycle hire schemes is growing.  Vilnius has a scheme, branded Cyclocity.

Cyclocity operates seasonally, from late April to around the middle of October.

Further information and perspectives about the transport system in Vilnius can be found in a post on the Lithuania The Best blog (written in 2011).