Electric bus route between Norway and Russia?
Over the next year, the Barents Secretariat hopes to start a pilot project on a zero-emission bus route between Kirkenes, Nikel and Zapolyarny. The route runs for a distance of just under 10 miles.
– This coincides with the tenth anniversary of a Local border traffic permit. Along with the larger obstacles over previous years caused by pandemic, we felt it was the right time. Increased mobility can strengthen Russian-Norwegian cooperation in the future. At the same time we need to think in new ways about energy consumption, explains Håkon Roald Sverdrupsen, Advisor for Innovation and Infrastructure at the Barents Secretariat.
Stronger communities on both sides of the border
The Barents Secretariat is an inter-municipal company owned by Nordland, and Troms and Finnmark County. They work with Norwegian-Russian projects, which aim to promote cooperation between the two countries by supporting cooperation projects. They receive support from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
– Now more than ever, it is important to facilitate greater cooperation between our countries in the future. Increased mobility can contribute to increased cooperation. At the same time, both countries have resembling national strategies to strengthen local communities – increased mobility makes them more sustainable, people choosing to live where they live.
Taking a bus is easier than driving your own car
The project is still at the start-up phase, but positive feedback has been received already, there are so many interested in electric buses.
– It is actually easier to take a bus than to drive your own car to cross the border with a local border traffic permit or visa. Then you do not have your own car to clear the customs on the way to Russia (If you drive your own car across the border, you must prove that you own it or have permission to drive the car to Russia). For young people, who do not have their own car, it becomes much easier to cross the border, which until now has been a problem. At the same time, it is more comfortable to take the bus, you can even get some work done along the way, if needed.
There were 266 000 travelers crossing the border over the last normal year. Very few of them drove electric cars. Fortunately, the use of electric cars is also becoming more widespread, and although we have probably come further when it comes to the use of electric vehicles here in Norway, the Russians are also well on their way, Zapolyarny has its own charging station and plans some more.
– We are still at the early stage of the project and no concrete results yet. Until now, it has been about obtaining financing and having meetings with bus companies and other participants on both sides. But we are planning to move to the next stage in the near future, Sverdrupsen says.
The County’s Department for public transport is responsible for scheduled transport services at the county.
– “Barents on time”, the joint cross-border project between Russia, Norway and Finland is spot-on in relation to offering eco-friendly cross-border public transport services, so we and the Barents Secretariat do hope that it is a good opportunity to promote people-to-people contacts on both sides of the border, Lars H Engerengen concluded, project manager of Troms and Finnmark county.