When it comes to sustainable transport, Norway is paving the way: as early as 1998, in response to increasing traffic and a need for improved mobility, the Norwegian government set up an ambitious National Transportation Plan for a greener country. Part of the Plan was to ensure that all city buses become zero-emission or biogas vehicles by 2025. All over Norway, cities are striving to reach these national goals, and this is particularly true of Bergen, Norway’s second largest city after Oslo with nearly 300,000 inhabitants. “The population is growing in Bergen and Bergen’s Public Transport Authority Skyss wants traffic growth to be handled by sustainable public transport. Bergen is still a car-based community, so the real issue is to make public transport so attractive that people will leave their cars at home," says Øystein Gullaksen, CEO Keolis Norge. "Our e-buses are now offering a comfortable and eco-friendly travel as part of Skyss' ambitions to provide a seamless multimodal travel connecting services such as tram, e-buses, and city bicycles.”
Since December 2020, Bergen residents have been benefitting from 100 % fossil-free buses. The city bus network, operated by Keolis Norge, runs exclusively on renewable energies and illustrates Keolis’s commitment to helping the Public Transport Authority build a more sustainable and green transport network.
Working towards zero-emission public transport
Skyss had set up a specific plan to achieve the national targets: a fully renewable-energy powered bus fleet; a yearly minimum of routes to be serviced by electrical vehicles; electricity to be provided from renewable energies; and palm oil to be banned in biodiesel. "The politicians of Vestland county made a brave decision to require zero emission buses in the tender" says Målfrid Sønstabø, CEO Skyss. "Keolis met the requirement with a maximum proportion of electric buses. The result is that 25% of the buses in the city of Bergen are now electric, which will give us cleaner city air as well as a substantial reduction in climate emissions.”
As Skyss’ long-standing partner, Keolis Norge was chosen to operate the new fossil-free bus network, starting on December 2020. “We have operated the tram network since it launched in 2010 and renewed the contract in 2018 for another 10 years” explains Øystein. “A long-standing partnership was important going into the mobilization process. We used our local and group level expertise to advise Skyss along the way. For instance, we saw the opportunity and the benefits of converting Mannsverk into a 100 % fully electric depot in which the PTA agreed. This new contract is part of our strategy to become truly multimodal and contribute to an eco-friendly public transport market.”
Demonstrating our expertise in green mobility
After 18 months of preparation, Keolis launched a fleet of 138 buses, including 102 electric vehicles, 10 Trolley buses and 26 Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil buses. With this new fleet, Keolis aims to reduce CO2 emissions by around 85 % during its contract, and, therefore, provide a better quality of life for Bergen’s residents. “What is special about the network apart from it being 100 % fossil-free, is that we build the charging infrastructure" says Øystein. "The zero-emission vehicles are equipped with batteries which can, if needed, cover over 14 kilometers without recharging. We also operate the first and only trolleybus line in Norway! The trolleybus line operates as a trunk line, with high frequencies and a high passenger-occupancy rate.” In addition to the new fossil-free bus network, Skyss has considerably optimized the existing network as of the 25th of May 2021, providing better routes, increased frequencies and connecting lines. Keolis Norge are also preparing for the launch of the tram extension line 2 in December 2022.
Providing a better quality of life
The e-buses are new for everyone in Bergen including Keolis Norge, Skyss, bus drivers, passengers, and the public. But so far so good! The green buses’ battery systems are reliable, and passengers and pedestrians greatly appreciate the noise reduction. So do the bus drivers, who quickly adapted to the new vehicles after a specific training course. “Thanks to our solid collaboration, Skyss is one step closer to reaching the goal of the National Transportation Plan and we are very proud to be able to play a part in helping Bergen reach its ambitious sustainability goals to better meet its citizens’ mobility needs.” says Øystein Gullaksen.