Great Nordic Horizons event with the irrepressible Hanne Norli from Oslo transport operators Ruter. I confessed I was in love with their wee integrated handbook which I used daily over four months living in Olso a few years back. She confirmed they're going to scrap it (aargh!) because ticketing's gone online with an award winning app that already accounts for 17% of tickets sold. Progress ochone. Mind you 98% passenger satisfaction is hard to beat - especially when you shift the number of people Ruter shift - over 134kms of tram for example - not just 14kms as Edinburgh will soon have. Ruter are achieving those levels of happiness despite having to answer to a large number of political "owners" (two country and 23 municipal councils) and despite redesigning contracts so city buses increasingly terminate travellers at stations instead with the aim of shifting bus and tram commuters onto rail to avoid the congestion caused by multiple transport modes travelling side by side.
Pensioners don't get free travel "unless they're sick." (Biggest laugh of the night)
And Hanne was big enough to admit that even Oslo have made mistakes with trams. The old one built in 1970s still work but new ones in 1990s were too heavy for the rails and have easy-to-rust buggies beneath. Lots of money spent on maintenance. They've also spent 15 years haggling over a much-needed new line to Fornebu which has just been approved. If Oslo gets the 2022 winter Olympics they will finally have a real deadline.
But Ruter's great achievement is a constantly rising share of public transport journeys and flatlining car use - both in the city and in surrounding rural Akershus. Road tolling (introduced without a referendum!) funds much of the public transport upgrades. Though the biggest changes ahead will need extra cash. The Highways Authority has calculated there will need to be new rail lines and tunnels to carry the projected increase in population by 2030 or 10 extra lanes on motorways. That focuses the mind!
But like us many of Oslo's actual services are provided by private operators. The biggest difference was picked up by Swedish Consul Torvald Colliander cos the same system operates in Sweden (and maybe Denmark?) Private operators are told what services the state/council wants, paid a set fee to deliver them and then all the revenue comes to the local authority. So it doesn't matter if a route is hardly used or "uneconomic" -- at least not to the private operator. They just do what they're told. Here it seems the boot is always on the other foot. Operators like Scotrail carry only "management risk" - the track is effectively state-owned and the rolling stock is not Scotrail owned either as far as I understand it.
Couldn't Scotland change the system to regain some control over prices/ planning and city growth? While Scottish cities often seem to have unplanned development, Oslo is having a public transport led development programme with the planners at Ruter and the Highways Authority projecting the hard choices to be made between now and 2060. Those long term visions guide strategy until 2030 and actions over the next five years. It all just makes SENSE.