Meeting the Minister of Infrastructure, Åsa Torstensson

Last Saturday, accidentally, I got the opportunity to discuss bus infrastructure with the Swedish minister for infrastructure when she visited Kungälv, a small town outside Gothenburg. Naturally, I took the opportunity to argue for the priority of bus infrastructure. As noted previously in the blog I have been a bit disappointed by the lack of targeted actions for buses, both in the international arena and in Sweden.

After a brief review of the present status we got into a stimulating and extended in depth discussion. We had a very fruitful dialog about the pros and cons of different potential development scenarios. The minister was very well informed about the local projects that give a menu of typical infrastructure needs of our time. Indeed the contradicting demands of lowering the environmental impact and increasing the economical growth are on top of the agenda in most parts of the world. And, it was therefore very inspiring to compare different viewpoints and conclusions by examples.

Below I have summarised some of the bullet points of the conversation:

I related to the recent report from the Swedish climate committee where much emphasis is spent on infrastructure and public transports in general. However, not one single sentence mentions the use of buses as a cost efficient alternative. While other means of transports are specifically targeted by earmark money. This goes in particular for the proposed increase of railways by 50%.

I therefore proposed that we should apply general principles for infrastructure investments that measure the impact by cost. For the climate committee it should thus be essential to minimise the emissions of climate gases and, to use as little money as possible to achieve the target. The report does not reveal any deeper relation between the cost for the planed actions and the effect of the measures. Buses offer cost efficient transport of persons. In most cities, it is the most cost efficient transport of persons. While cars for example, can offer cost efficient alternatives in less densely populated areas. The combination of the two should be promoted, following the motto: “The right vehicle for the right transport”.

The target should be to provide money for public transport infrastructure in a technology neutral way, in order to allow a just promotion of infrastructure buses and other cost efficient means of transports.

We know that some of the most cost efficient actions are:

– Promoting separate lanes and stops for buses

– Giving buses priority in traffic (e.g. at traffic lights)

– Promote easy access to bus terminals by providing more park + ride solutions for car users

– Provide means to support fuel efficient hybrid buses

– Present a long term plan for infrastructure for sustainable fuels

Often, those actions save money for society, rather than cause cost for the tax payers.

The minister, Åsa Torstensson, related to the overall targets that are not only considering climate issues and she emphasised that there is an additional need for securing and improving infrastructure to peripheral towns that are industrially connected to the industrial growth of for example the Göteborg region. The time for travelling is another important factor when people chose means for transports and thus has to be a part of the “equation”. As an example, travellers chose the train over aeroplanes, when the journey takes less time.

There is thus no lack of subjects for future talks

About volvobuses

Adjunct Professor of Catalysis at Chalmers University of Technology. Lives in Gothenburg, Sweden, with my wife and three daughters born in 1991, 1994 and 1997. Is a passionate runner.
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