Onnibussi launches low-cost bus service between Helsinki and Tampere
The first Onnibussi low-cost bus left for Tampere on Monday
By Juha Salonen
Santra Mäkelä released the clutch of her Volvo coach in front of the General Post Office in downtown Helsinki on Monday at 9:45 a.m.
The very first low-cost bus Onnibussi from Helsinki to Tampere departed on schedule.
The launch of the new service is also witnessed by a decent load of passengers.
Raila Knuuttila has bought her ticket online at the knockdown price of three euros.
”The same trip costs EUR 26 on Matkahuolto buses. Because of the price differential, I will be using Onnibussi services even in the future”, Knuuttila says.
After a short calculation, she says that she has paid for her ticket only one-ninth of the corresponding ticket sold by Matkahuolto.
Matkahuolto is a private service and marketing company specialising in bus and coach services.
”Perhaps it would be worthwhile for Matkahuolto to reduce its ticket prices”, Knuutila suggests.
On Monday, Onnibussi also started its services between Helsinki and Raisio, near Turku.
In the autumn the buses in their red-and-white livery will appear on the long-distance route between Turku and Jyväskylä.
However, not everyone likes the idea of cheap bus rides offered by Onnibussi.
Before the opening departure, there was a dispute about the express bus stop in front of the General Post Office in Helsinki.
The City of Helsinki decided to give Onnibussi permission to use the stop, but the Finnish Bus and Coach Association did not swallow that.
They submitted a claim against the decision to the City Planning Committee.
The official reason for the claim was concern about the effects of the bus stop for example on the smooth running of traffic in the city centre and on traffic safety.
In practice, the Finnish Bus and Coach Association wants to hamper the arrival of a new challenger on the stage.
The Finnish Bus and Coach Association holds on tight to the exclusive rights of bus service providers, which is also in the interests of its major member enterprises.
The new kid on the block is disturbing this old picture of the world that the Bus and Coach Association has been cherishing.
Onnibussi is unpicking the restrictive trade practices brought by operating licences based on exclusive rights. The pricing policy of the newcomer follows the example set by low-cost airlines.
The first tickets bought in advance online cost only a few euros, but as the demand grows, the prices also rise. The average price for a bus ticket between Helsinki and Tampere is ten euros.
Compared with the services of Matkahuolto or the railways (VR), the price can be regarded as competitive.
The atmosphere in the Tampere-bound bus is light and jolly.
Annele Isomäki says that she paid EUR 8.90 for her ticket.
”Of course the price difference is important, but it is also a question of principle. It is nice to support competition”, Isomäki says.
Atro Vuolle, a bus company owner who has joined the Onni Allianssi (”Onni Alliance”), is sitting in the front row for the maiden trip to Tampere.
Onni Alliance follows the Onnibus concept, and the aim is to build a national low-cost bus and coach network.
”There has always been competition. In the old days, people used to compete whose horse reached the church hill first”, Vuolle chuckles.
Bus and coach traffic is to open to competition in the current decade.
The largest number of operating licences with exclusive rights will be deregulated in 2014.
In urban regions, cities and municipalities will be able to take over the planning and competitive tendering processes of public transport.
Intercity long-distance traffic will also be opened to competition.
Helsingin Sanomat / First published in print 5.6.2012
Previously in HS International Edition:
Budget bus company Onnibus to widen operations towards Northern Finland (22.5.2012)
Onnibussi (website in Finnish)
Finnish Bus and Coach Association: Get on the bus
JUHA SALONEN / Helsingin Sanomat