Moving public transport onto waterways

Moving public transport from roads to rivers can benefit crowded cities worldwide. With Medstraum – a fully electric, zero-emission, fast-going passenger vessel – it can soon become a reality.

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Waterways are an untapped source of mobility for city dwellers. Eight out of the 10 largest cities in the world are coastal – and a majority of large, non-coastal cities are riverside. Yet public transportation in and around these urban centres is predominantly land-based. So underused are waterways, in fact, that the EU’s barometer of public transport does not even report on ferry transportation in European cities.

There is, however, a pressing need to increase the capacity of city transport networks. The global urban population is expected to grow by between 1.6 and 1.8 per cent each year until 2025, according to the World Health Organization. That means increased stress on roads and railways, leading to greater congestion as well as pollution. When half of all particle pollution in OECD countries already stems from road transport, it is clear that the benefits of moving traffic off the roads are huge.

High-speed, zero-emission urban water shuttle

TrAM is an EU-funded project developing a zero-emission fast-going passenger vessel through advanced modular production. New manufacturing methods will contribute to 25 per cent lower production costs and 70 per cent lower engineering costs. The project is revolutionary both in terms of zero-emission technology and manufacturing methods and will contribute to making electric-powered high-speed vessels competitive in terms of both cost and the environment.

The demonstrator vessel Medstraum will operate a multi-stop commuter route into Stavanger, Norway. The construction of Medstraum is soon complete, and the vessel is set to sail in 2022. Medstraum will be a fully electric fast-going passenger vessel with zero emissions to air and sea. The project will also conduct two studies for the same type of vessel on the River Thames in London and on the canals in Belgium to explore opportunities for similar zero-emission vessels. This will pave the way for lower-priced, environmentally friendly ships serving other routes in Europe as well.

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Ideal for green city initiatives

Infrastructure investments are usually the biggest hurdle for public transport development. Digging tunnels and building rails are costly processes that disrupt a city for years. With an urban water shuttle, however, the waterways are already there. The only construction needed is terminals and the boats themselves. Maintenance costs are similarly low.

Medstraum, moreover, is fully electric, meaning zero greenhouse gas emissions and no local air pollution. With green city initiatives taking root worldwide, a comprehensive, emission-free public transport system such as this is a valuable asset.

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Huge potential for urban water transport

Since large cities are predominantly coastal, while public transport mainly runs on land, the potential market for water transport is huge. Individual cities will have different needs, but a common denominator is population stress on urban areas and a need to expand geographically. Connecting large sections of a metropolitan area can help to boost the overall economy and thus be a positive reinforcement for investment in public transport.

The TrAM project is a pilot project and a joint effort between several companies and research centres across Europe. The TrAM H2020 project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 769303.

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Meatjønnsvegen 74, 5412 STORD, Norway

+47 926 30 119

At a glance

  • High-speed, zero-emissions public transport system on water

  • No need for costly infrastructure investments

  • Pilot project from Norwegian cleantech cluster


Under development
The demonstrator vessel is set to sail in 2022.

Advancing the Sustainable Development Goals