Sön 14 jul / År 42 / Nr 3 2024

Länstrafiken Norrbotten wants to join hands in the green transition

Länstrafiken Norrbotten wants more people to be able to choose sustainable travel by public transport. There is a strong ambition on the part of Länstrafiken to develop and strengthen public transport in the county overall. The vision is for public transport to become more attractive to more travellers and even more sustainable in the future.

Ingela Karlsson, acting CEO of Länstrafiken Norrbotten.

Länstrafiken Norrbotten, which is owned by the Regional Public Transport Authority Norrbotten (RKM), has an extensive mission with responsibility for the entire county’s public transport. One of the most important driving forces for Länstrafiken’s work, and which is also connected to the industrial green transition which is largely led from Norrbotten, is to get more people to choose public transport.

The new traffic supply program

To make public transport more appealing, efforts that are needed to develop the collective travel offer in Norrbotten is currently being mapped. These have to include both current and future needs and interact with the development that industrial investments will bring.

Examples of questions that are investigated are proposals for new lines, new timetables, new common exchange points and call-controlled traffic. The investigations are carried out on behalf of the Regional Public Transport Authority, which is also responsible for deciding on the new traffic supply program that describes how traffic should be conducted in the county.

“Public transport plays an important role in the development of the region and therefore it is a high priority to review and develop our services. The investigations we have carried out so far show, among other things, that travel links, timetables and coordination between all types of public transport need to be reviewed. By summer 2023 at the latest, we expect to have final decisions on which investments to make”, says Ingela Karlsson, acting CEO of Länstrafiken Norrbotten.

Once the new traffic supply program has been adopted, it will be the guiding light for the continued work within Länstrafiken. Certain procurements are already underway for the coming years. Länstrafiken is also investigating opportunities to increase the frequency of trips, especially during evenings and weekends to increase passenger benefits.

Enabler in the green transition

Strengthening and further developing public transport is the ultimate goal for all activities within Länstrafiken. This includes making public transport more accessible. Making it more sustainable is an at least as important goal.

“We want to reflect that we intend to be an enabler in the green transition that is taking place in the region. There are plans for major investments in green energy production and green industrial development with fossil-free manufacturing. We want to be involved and contribute by offering green solutions for traveling to and from and within the county. As a company, you must be able to offer your employees the opportunity to travel sustainably and thereby also contribute to the green transition on an individual level. This is something that we promote today”, explains Ingela Karlsson.

Work trips, such as trips to and from customers and partners, as well as commuting to and from work daily, must be possible by relying on the green public transport for as many people as possible. Länstrafiken’s work should also contribute to more people being able to live and work in Norrbotten.

“There are several dimensions in the work of marketing public transport to existing companies and future establishments”, Ingela continues. “One suggestion we make is that companies should encourage their employees to travel by public transport by offering commuting time as working time. With today’s technology, there are fantastic opportunities to work while traveling. This can also be a way to attract more competence to our region”.

Promote public transport for business

Work is now underway to communicate more with companies in the region, and to draw attention to the opportunities available by combining travel and work, among other things. To increase interest in public transport among companies, a special business account solution is also presented in the Länstrafiken Norrbotten travel app.

The business account will also be included in the new solution that is being developed for a common ticket and payment system together with the three other northernmost counties in Sweden. For the traveller, this means a much simpler process for searching for trips and buying tickets across county borders. This is a step in opening up for more seamless travel and easier commuting.

“We want to meet existing companies and create interest among future establishments in the opportunities with public transport. This also includes inspiring and influencing to such extent that in the construction of new workplaces there is no need to oversize the parking area for example, but instead rely on the route of public transport. We can encourage the companies to be involved and influence so that new bus stops are planned just outside the workplace”, says Ingela Karlsson.

The industry’s challenges

There is clearly a strong commitment within Länstrafiken Norrbotten. Historically speaking, Norrbotten is a county characterised by a lot of commuting by private car. Länstrafiken wants to be involved and influence for a more sustainable development with a greater market share for public travel.

At the same time, the internal work within Länstrafiken is also ongoing, among other things linked to Länstrafiken as an employer. The vision is to be able to offer a top-class service, and what does that mean for Länstrafiken’s employees? What opportunities are there to make a career in public transport? These are examples of issues that are currently being raised.

“We know that there is a major shortage of drivers across the board, and not least in public transport. We are in the midst of a major generational change and a lot of skills will be needed to cover that. We need to market driving as a profession more, and highlight the opportunities, so that more people choose a career on the road. For us to be able to guarantee well-functioning public transport in the future, we must increase interest in the driving profession among young people to a greater extent. This is a major challenge for the entire industry”, notes Ingela Karlsson.

One of the largest employers in Överkalix

“At Länstrafiken, we have employees who work in traffic development, IT, customer service, finance and in many other different roles. All work to ensure that travellers in Norrbotten have an attractive range of public transport and that they arrive safely and on time and receive top-class service when they travel with us”, says Viktoria Korak, HR and acting customer service manager at Länstrafiken Norrbotten.

At the head office in Överkalix, Länstrafiken works with the general public transport in the county, and in collaboration with other counties. For example line 45 is planned, which stretches 70 miles between Gällivare and Östersund, line 26 between Arjeplog and Skellefteå, as well as traffic along the entire Norrland coast from Haparanda to Umeå. At the head office, there is also an assignment center handling orders for service trips, i.e. travel service and medical trips and other special trips within certain municipalities.

“As one of the largest employers in Överkalix, at Länstrafiken Norrbotten we are keen to benefit the town and contribute to local growth. We like to recruit locally as far as possible, even if remote work has opened up new opportunities. We of course want to contribute to developing Överkalix as a brand and highlight the location’s attractiveness, and would like to be a contributing factor to people moving here as well”, Viktoria continues.

Competence provision in sparsely populated municipalities

Överkalix is a small municipality with just under 3,200 inhabitants and low unemployment. As an employer, you must be an attractive alternative to be of interest to Överkalix residents. The same applies to most of Norrbotten, as the county has very low unemployment rates overall.

“Länstrafiken Norrbotten is no exception, we struggle to find competence when our employees move on to new challenges or retire. One of our goals is for people to want to work and develop with us, regardless of whether they are already employed or have seen us from the outside, or want to come back to us”, says Viktoria.

Överkalix municipality also works actively with various projects to attract more people to settle in the area. Here, Länstrafiken Norrbotten would like to participate in order to find synergy effects and hopefully also make contact with potential new employees.

“Our mission is extensive and in 2023 and 2024 we are facing several major development projects. Among other things, an upgrade of the ticket and payment system, which means several new functions for our travellers. We are upgrading our service and quality by introducing a real-time system in our buses that enables travellers to see where the bus is in real time. And shortly we will also change the booking and planning system for our service trips. To be able to carry out everything as planned, we need to develop the skills and create resources of our existing employees, but there is also a need to add new skills”, says Viktoria Korak.

County traffic in Norrbotten

Each year, approximately 2.3 million passengers travel with Länstrafiken Norrbotten buses. The traffic is managed by around 30 independent transport companies, which have agreements with Länstrafiken. In total, the transport companies employ around 400 drivers and 230 buses.

Länstrafiken operates 145 lines. 31 lines are lines with traffic across one or more municipal boundaries. These lines are financed by Region Norrbotten. Other travel lines are local lines, with traffic within municipal boundaries as well as call-controlled travel which are mostly financed by the individual municipalities.