Thursday 13 October 2016

Kaunas, Lithuania

Lithuania's second city is Kaunas, around 90 kilometres west of the capital, Vilnius.

With a population exceeding 300,000, Kaunas has an extensive public transport system cooridnated by Kauno Viešasis Transportas (KVT).

Trolleybuses form the backbone of the transport network, with 14 routes operating.

Most of the trolleybuses wear this bright green colour scheme. 

All of the trolleybuses I saw had three sets of doors.

In April 2016, when I visited Kaunas, the trolleybus fleet comprised a mix of newer and older vehicles.

The newer fleet are fitted with electronic displays showing the route number and destination.  Many of the older vehicles display only the route number at the front, on a board fitted beneath the windscreen.  Only a small number were displaying a destination, on a card in the windscreen.

However, route details are displayed in a side window next to the entrance doors.



Although most of the trolleybuses wear bright green, I did notice a few exceptions.

This one was carrying a special livery to mark the 50th anniversary of trolleybuses in Kaunas.  Trolleybuses had been introduced to the streets of Kaunas in 1965.

A different reminder of Kaunas' trolleybus history was provided by a small number of vehicles still carrying red and cream.

These colours can still be seen on communist-era trolleybuses and trams across a number of Eastern European cities.

Another livery I noticed on a couple of vehicles was this darker green and yellow scheme.

Some vehicles carried external advertising.  On some (but not all) of them, this was carried on the green base colour.


At the time of my visit, all of the trolleybuses were standard two-axle vehicles.

A small number of articulated trolleybuses have since appeared in Kaunas.  The articulated trolleybuses are second-hand, acquired from the Dutch city of Arnhem.

This image was kindly provided by RLT.

While Kaunas' trolleybuses are green, its buses are red.  I noted a wide variety of buses in use.

There were plenty of standard single-deckers.  Like the trolleybuses, all those that I saw had three sets of doors.


The bus fleet included some low-emission vehicles.  Tanks on the roof are a clue that these vehicles are powered by gas.



Kaunas is a participant in the Baltic Biogas Bus project, which has involved organisations across eight countries in northern, central and eastern Europe.


A considerable proportion of the bus fleet has been acquired second-hand, particularly from the Benelux countries and from Scandinavia.

In most cases, the destination equipment fitted to the second-hand vehicles is not used.  Most merely carry just the route number on cards in the windscreen, although a few also had destination cards.





The "hash" logo on the side of this vehicle was a tell-tale sign it previously served the Norwegian capital, Oslo.  The red livery it wore there looked equally at home in Kaunas. 

The former Oslo buses were not the only ones still carrying their previous operator's colours.  Others were more obvious.




In a couple of cases, buses carrying non-standard colours were intentional.

This vehicle advertises Kaunas' public transport ticketing system....

...while this one carries a promotional livery for Norway Grants and EEA Grants.

These grants provide funding to European Union states from Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein, in return for these non-EU states being permitted to trade freely within the European single market.

Route 29 links Kaunas city centre with the airport, roughly every 40 minutes.

I noted one vehicle carrying a special livery.


Buses in standard livery were also operating on the 29 to the airport...
 was this one (below), in a colour scheme promoting Kaunas itself.

There were also a number of articulated buses in use.  All have arrived in Kaunas after operating elsewhere, particularly the Benelux countries or Scandinavia.

Some were smartly-presented, in Kaunas' red livery.






Others still carried the liveries of their previous operators.



Even longer than the articulated vehicles are bi-articulated buses, of which Kaunas has four.

Arriving in Kaunas at lunchtime, I found three of them parked out of use outside the railway station.  

They were in service during the evening peak hours, though, working on several routes alongside other vehicles.

I found two on route 23.





Another was on route 46, which starts from outside the railway station.

In other cities, I have found bi-articulated buses in use on the busiest services running at intensive frequencies.  Not so in Kaunas.  Route 23 operates up to three times per hour, route 46 generally operates only once per hour.  On both routes, the frequency is irregular.

Like a considerable proportion of Kaunas' bus fleet, these vehicles were acquired after service elsewhere.

These bi-articulated buses had previously been used in the Dutch city of Utrecht.

At the opposite end of the scale are minibuses.  A network of seven minibus routes, numbered 51 to 57, operate as part of the KVT network.

These minibuses carry yellow and white colours





Since my visit, minibuses in red livery have entered service on several KVT routes.

This image, taken in November 2016, was kindly provided by RLT.


Brief information in English about the KVT network is available on the Kaunas city authority's website, and on the website of the operator, Kauno Autobusai.  Individual route maps and timetables are also held on the website, along with those for a number of other Lithuanian cities.

A number of companies provide bus services from Kaunas to the surrounding area and further afield.

These out-of-town services are operated by a mix of buses and coaches...









As well as full-length vehicles, I noted at least one shorter-length bus...

...and a minibus on the out-of-town services.

Information about these services is available on the site.

For some of the out-of-town buses, tickets can be bought online from the Autobusbilietai site.

The hub for most of the out-of-town bus and coach services is Kaunas' bus and coach station.  However, the bus and coach station was closed for rebuilding when I visited Kaunas.

Buses and coaches were using a temporary terminus on nearby streets. 


A number of taxi-buses operate from Kaunas into the surrounding area.

These do not use the bus and coach station.

Information about the taxi-bus services is available on the website.

Several international coach services call in to Kaunas on their way to or from destinations including Warsaw, Berlin, Köln (Cologne), Riga and Tallinn. 

There is even a direct coach to Rome, a once-a-week journey taking in excess of 36 hours passing through Wien (Vienna) and Venice.

International coach services are provided by Eurolines and Lux Express.

There are three funicular railways in the Baltic States.  All three are in Lithuania, with Kaunas home to two of them.

The Žaliakalnis funicular climbs a slope just to the north of the city centre.


The Aleksotas funicular is on the opposite side of the Nemunas river from the city centre.


Brief information about the funiculars is available from Kaunas Tourism Information Centre. 

Lithuania's third funicular railway is in the capital, Vilnius.

A sightseeing tour of Kaunas provided by Vilnius City Tour.  A minibus is operated.

Finally, vintage buses from Britain turn up in all sorts of unlikely places.

RLT found this one at a shopping centre in Kaunas in autumn 2016.