Shake-up looms for transport fares

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Fares charged for the public transport system in and around Oslo are about to undergo massive change, starting next week. Transport system officials claim most passengers will enjoy lower fares, but some will see already-high fares go up yet again.

The new public transport fare structure seeks to coordinate travel within the Oslo metropolitan area, on both trains, trams, busses, ferries and the T-bane (metro) system pictured here. PHOTO: Views and News

New ticketing and new fares will be in place from October 1, and will apply to everyone using the train, bus, metro and tram systems in the Oslo metropolitan area. It involves a major revamping of the zones used to divide various sections of the area, from Asker in the west, to Romerike in the northeast, to areas as far south as Son.

Some key zones, such as within Oslo and its immediate surrounding area, will be expanded, meaning there no longer will be extra charges for taking a bus, for example, from downtown to as far west as Fornebu in Bærum or as far east as Lørenskog. Fares for most tickets or passes bought in advance for such trips will decline.

Officials at Ruter, the new name recently given to the entire metropolitan public transport system, also note that those traveling the farthest will benefit the most. Commuters living in the outer areas of Akershus and working in Oslo, for example, will save substantially under the new system: A ticket good for 30 days between Eidsvoll and Oslo will be NOK 510 (nearly USD 100) cheaper than the same sort of ticket is now.

The main goal is to attract more long-distance commuters to public transport, to discourage use of private cars into Oslo. Ruter is also introducing a new ticket good for an entire year of transport use. It will cost from NOK 5,900 within Oslo to NOK 14,900 for a year of travel within all zones, and can be bought by employers for employees, as an alternative to offering them a company car.

Financial incentive to buy tickets in advance
Another main goal of the new system is to get passengers to buy their tickets in advance, preferably through long-term passes, so that bus and tram drivers won’t be distracted and delayed by selling tickets on board. That means the price of a single ticket bought on board a bus or tram is being jacked up to NOK 44 (USD 8). It will still be good for an hour of travel, but that’s an astonishingly high fare for a local bus ride in Oslo compared to other cities. Single tickets bought in advance (at automated ticket machines, for example) will be much lower, at NOK 28, but that’s also up from NOK 27. The difference of NOK 16 between on-board and advance sales is an incentive to buy tickets from anyone but the driver.

That might not be popular with tourists unfamiliar with the system, who wander on board with no advance ticket and get hit with a fare that’s as high as a taxi ride in some cities. But Ruter claims fewer onboard sales will literally speed up the transport system.

Passengers who’ve used the current Flexikort system that allowed eight rides over an unlimited time span for NOK 140 as late as just a few years ago will be stung as well. Flexikort fares already have risen to NOK 200 most recently, equating to NOK 25 per ride. Now they’ll cost NOK 27 per ride on the new “Smartbillett” that’s due to replace the Flexikort, only one krone cheaper than a single ticket.

Those holding a Flexikort, or several, can continue using them through December 31. Then they’ll be phased out, forcing customers to use the newer electronic reisekort (travel cards).

Complicated, but aim is to simplify
Ruter claims the new system is a “test project,” suggesting that more changes may come later. And even though Ruter officials claim they want to simplify the current fare system, they admit the new one may be challenging to grasp at first.

“”This is so revolutionary, so complicated, that we’re asking the public to have patience with us,” Ruter chief Reitan Jensen told newspaper Aftenposten on Tuesday. “But we’re carrying this out as a permanent project, and have no plans today for more changes.”

For more information, see Ruter’s web site (external link), but details about the new fare system were not yet available in English.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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