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Lighthouse study on public transport is being followed up

15 May 2023

Exactly three years ago, Lighthouse published the pre-study on public transport on water. Now it is being followed up in a new project which will dig into the question of why the waterways are not better used for public transport in Swedish cities.

"How should electrified public transport on water be financed?" was the entrance question for the researchers that the researchers brought with them into the work on pre-study Kollektivtrafik på vatten which was done within the framework of the Swedish Transport Administration's industry program Sustainable shipping, which Lighthouse runs. The issue could quickly be dropped. Cost was not an issue – on the contrary, electric operation would probably save money.

The obstacles to increased public transport on water lay elsewhere. A research study from KTH identified the public transport system as a "socio-technical regime" as the major problem. It was simply too mature and well-established, which makes it robust and reliable, but also rigid and inflexible. Established regulations, planning processes and models are difficult to change.

Despite the fact that various actors for many years have pointed out that the waterway can be used smarter for a sustainable society, the opportunity is often lost when public transport, and new travel routes are planned, writes IVL Swedish Environmental Institute in a press release on Monday. In the wake of previous studies, however, funds have been granted by the Swedish Transport Administration to pursue the issue further together with the Environmental Institute, Trivector, Vattenbussen and KTH.

“Everyone has a role in reducing the transport sector's climate impact. Public transport procurers, transport operators and shipping companies all need to contribute to the transition. There are electric ferries existing and energy-efficient solutions available that provide a significant reduction in emissions into the air. Often we only think about the environmental impact of vehicles and ships in traffic, but large climate footprints also occur during the construction of roads, rails and tunnels”, says Linda Styhre, project manager at the IVL Swedish Environmental Institute.

The idea of the project is to give community and traffic planners at both national, regional and local level the right tools to be able to consider water-borne solutions as real action alternatives in the planning work.

“The waterway is a natural infrastructure that is already in place and can easily be put into use when capacity runs low. It does not require heavy investments or a large maintenance budget to be used. The only climate footprint created is from traffic. Therefore, it is also absolutely central that strict requirements are placed on the ships' environmental performance during procurement”, says Vattenbussen's Susanna Hall Kihl, who has long worked with system change in the area.

The research project is supported by a reference group consisting of members from ABB, Candela, EcoCharter, Ekosightseeing, Green City Ferries, Lighthouse, The Swedish Transport Administration, Färjerederiet, the 2030 Secretariat as well as representatives from Trafikförvaltningen in Stockholm and Västtrafik in Gothenburg.

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