Agder Flight Express for greener public transportation

Agder Flight Express is a private airport bus company in Arendal in Norway, run by Mr Jarl Tollefsen.

Our company’s ambition is to be an example of cheap, comfortable and efficient public transport. Drivers are well paid. I reject employing foreign drivers on minimal wages. That’s not the way to help them, that’s exploitation.

Arendal, picture taken from a bus entering the city.  (Photo. Author)

Arendal, picture taken from a bus entering the city. (Photo. Author)

Public transport is the only effective and comfortable mode of transport where hundreds of people travel the same stretches each day.

An important part of the job as a bus company is to reduce CO2 emissions. Burning fossil fuel produces more than three times as much CO2 as the weight of the fuel consumed. The pollution we produce every day might not disappear from the earth’s atmosphere in our lifetime.

New and better technologies reduce the amount of toxic gases from vehicles, but as long as we’re burning carbon to produce energy, toxic exhaust fumes are unavoidable. Pollution, traffic jams and slower and more inefficient private means of communication indicate that the car might not be our best friend anymore. We should prioritize building public transportation before more roads.

Norway has a fantastic nature now, but in a future world of petrol driven cars, the quality of our environment is in jeopardy.  (Photo. Author)

Norway has a fantastic nature now, but in a future world of petrol driven cars, the quality of our environment is in jeopardy. (Photo. Author)

I believe bus transportation has to be changed by the public’s engagement and input. When transportation systems are developed, knowledge and competency has to be brought to bear, to a hugely greater extent than currently is the case in Norway. An example is that the provincial governments would in principle be able to take over and run the local buses, to half the budget of the now publicly regulated, privately run buses.

Our bus company is based in a small city of 40 000 people, Arendal, where minibuses could cover much of the geographical transport market well. A minibus doesn’t cost more than an average private car to run. When driven economically, a minibus will have similar emissions to the average car driven in an average way with regards to driving habits, planned driving routes, and idling.

Instead Arendal’s private bus company runs 60-seat buses with handfuls of passengers all day long. The way Arendal’s other local services are designed, makes it Norway’s first CO2 neutral municipality. But bus transport is not included in the CO2 calculations, and with Arendal being billed as Norway’s UN-city, the arrangement of bus transport has much to improve. Only 3% of the county’s total journeys are made by public transport.

The task is the same all over the world – to create sensible transport systems, criticize them, and use them.

Norway is planning enormous road expansion at the expense of the natural landscape, (Photo. Author)

Norway is planning enormous road expansion at the expense of the natural landscape, (Photo. Author)

The extensive winter salt use and road maintenance alone is scarcely justified by the relative utility of the new roads. It’s not good enough, compared to e.g. the potential of railways.

The technological advances toward emission free road transport are critical. But even the quantum leaps in emissions-reduction in large vehicles, is too little too late. There is no room for pollution in a society which shall last on our earth for thousands of years to come. In Norway, railways run by renewable energy are the best and only option for mass transportation over longer distances.

The disadvantages of road transport are insurmountable. The disadvantages chiefly derive from the stress through the social complications of short-sighted driving habits.

Conflicts between driver and reality are more common than conflicts between drivers, because of how we’re all made. A human is not suited to sitting behind the wheel of a car, and the soil we drive on is not able to carry one billion drivers, each with their ideas, degree of disinterest, and limited knowledge.

All encompassing transport based on roads are only a temporary solution. I often meet regular people, or in politics and public administration, who call public transport idealistic. The facts are completely the opposite. The illusion that transport can be completed with cars, with people exerting the discipline of an ants nest, is true idealism indeed.

It’s very easy to create an unequalled system of collective transport through rail and bus – and my explanation for why collective transport has not been implemented in Norway, is that humanity somehow always fails a thousand times before it does anything right. But the nations, regions, or even groups who do public transport the right way will be the winners in our future.


Article contributed by: Mr Jarl Tollefsen, Arendal, Norway

Business is going green. Even if some of the Corporate Social Responsibility profiles (CSR) many companies like to garnish themselves with is just greenwashing, many do serious and good work. We cannot wait for politicians to take the lead. Those who can and will take responsibility must do it. Here is an article on sustainable business – transportation sector.

Initiatives with ideas like Agder flight express are important steps towards a future sustainable society

The more companies taking CSR seriously, the quicker and less painful the necessary road to sustainability will be.

CSR International |  CSR 2.0  |  CSR (Wikipedia)  |  CSR Norway  |  European CSR  |  CSR solutions facebook  |  CSR Global compact (UN)  |

Articles on transport and planning for sustainability:

Sacrifice vs choice: Is it a New type of Sustainable ”Diet” or “Workout”…?

Is this America’s First Electric School Bus?

An electric power trip -Metro’s testing of an extra-long, zero-emission bus gets positive results, with praise for the smooth ride and quiet interior

The secrets of the world’s happiest cities

Janette Sadik-Khan: New York’s streets? Not so mean any more

The sustainable society of 2040

About svenaake

University Teacher.
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3 Responses to Agder Flight Express for greener public transportation

  1. Jarl Tollefsen says:

    Hello Peter, in my personal opinion, the bus industry is troubled with stressful working conditions and bad decision making structures. As well as an unfortunate cooperation between officials and coorporate leaders with varying competence on a simple function: driving vehicles. It doesn’t cost 1000NOK/200USD to run a bus for one hour. But in Norway’s private-public transportation structure, that cost level is a fact.

    About natural gas: Whatever the best solutions and steps prove to be, I’m happy to see them implemented. I would use natural gas if I could muster the infrastructure.

    Good Luck with the BusWays, that’s very exciting! I hope they will be effective in reducing traffic!


  2. Peter Nylund says:

    Would very much like to see documentation for your claim that provincial/state run bus companies can run the services at half the cost of privates? If you can document this, then it is a very big sensation.
    You mention CO2 and pollution, but you do not mention gas. In the Stavanger area most buses now run on natural gas, reducing emmissions considerably. You could also run your buses on this fuel, while we all wait for a non-polluting solution, like hydrogen. In Stavanger we are already in good motion building BusWays, and more is coming in the whole region the next 5 years.
    Peter Nylund


    • We in Agder Flyekspress, who penned this article 5 years ago; are running our routes for around 450NOK pr hour of traffic. That’s under half the here referenced public average. I’m not going into whether public of private does better here, that’s a different, economic technical question. The pure cost level of bus transport however, is a question which is not being answered adequately; it’s not really controversal that buses can be run cheaply and well, as a matter of technical competency. Why it doesn’t happen on a large scale in Norway is a complex issue, but it is inexcusable, and the burden of proof is not really on us any more in my honest view.

      Sincerely Jarl


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