History of trolleybus transport in Tallinn

The first plans to build a trolleybus system in Tallinn emerged as early as September 1946. As for potential routes, there were several proposals, the main ones being Pirita – Tallinn centre – Balti jaam (Baltic Station) and Kopli – Balti jaam. On 25 May 1948, the preliminary design documentation for the construction of a trolleybus route running from the Baltic Station to Pirita to Merivälja was completed, but the project never went any further. In August 1954, a plan for a trolleybus route running from the Baltic Station to Stalin Square was prepared, but was not implemented either.

In December 1959, more concrete plans for the construction of a trolleybus route were laid down by a regulation of the Council of Ministers of the Estonian SSR. The route was to be Estonia pst – Toompuiestee – Paldiski mnt – Rocca al Mare. In 1962, construction work began with the installation of the overhead contact wire. In the end, however, the route was only built up to Hipodroomi (Tallinn Hippodrome). On 6 July 1965, a ceremony was held for the opening of Tallinn’s first trolleybus route on the square in front of the Estonia Theatre.

When trolleybus services were launched on the Estonia – Hipodroomi route in 1965, no trolleybus dispatch centres had yet been built, nor were they built before the next routes, running to and from Mustamäe and Väike-Õismäe, were opened. The services were started with temporary solutions, consisting either of mobile homes positioned at the end of the routes or a toilet and phone provided by kind neighbours (the library of the Academy of Sciences next to the Estonia Theatre and café Energia next to the Tallinna Kaubamaja department store). The first terminal was completed in 1966 next to Tallinn Hippodrome at Paldiski mnt 50. On 28 December 1967, a dispatch centre was completed in Mustamäe at Akadeemia tee 29, and later expanded between 1977 and 1981. Although the square in front of the Estonia Theatre and the stop at Tallinna Kaubamaja were the endpoints for several routes, building a trolleybus terminal there was ruled out for architectural reasons.

The construction of the Väike-Õismäe trolleybus route, in turn, was so unexpected and unplanned that the dispatch centre was left until last. Thus, the Väike-Õismäe trolleybus terminal was completed a full seven years after the opening of the route on 1 July 1987. In the meantime, mobile homes and an apartment in a nearby residential building had to suffice. Trolleybus route No. 9 was also launched without a terminal, which was completed on Keskuse Street only in July 1991.

Managing traffic without the proper means of communication is undeniably difficult, yet that is how trolleybus transport started in Tallinn. The only way to contact the dispatcher was to use a public telephone station. The recently introduced radio communication technology only enabled information to be exchanged between technical assistance vehicles and dispatchers.

In 1991, word got around that in Helsinki they were planning to replace the radio equipment used in public transport vehicles, and thus an agreement was reached to purchase the communication systems from the Finns. However, the necessary modification work and formalities took so long that the first devices were not installed until July 1995.

For trolleybus services, Estonia’s reindependence led to difficult times, as the Škoda plant that manufactured the trolleybuses and their spare parts insisted that future payments be settled in US dollars. The trolleybus company, however, had no access to the currency, which made it impossible to procure both new trolleybuses as well as spare parts to keep the old ones running. As a result, while in the heyday of trolleybus transport in 1988 there were 160 trolleybuses in service concurrently, the number dropped to 108 by 1991 and then to 94 by 1995. In the late 1990s, the construction of a new trolleybus route between Mustamäe and Õismäe was considered, but was never undertaken. In 1993, however, Tallinn City Council adopted a concept for the development of urban transport, which emphasised the importance of electric vehicles as a mode of transport for Tallinn. Since December 2002, Tallinn’s trolleybus fleet has been supplemented with Solaris trolleybuses manufactured at a plant situated in Bolechowo, near the city of Poznań in Poland. Between 2006 and 2009, the SMILE project was implemented in Tallinn with the support of the European Union, which saw the modernisation of the information systems of the city’s trams, trolleybuses, and buses and the development of a public transport priority system. Trolleybuses are fitted with GPS-based information boards with an automatic stop announcement system. A total of 26 intersections in Tallinn are integrated into a traffic light priority system that enables public transport vehicles to be given a ‘green wave’. On 30 October 1992, the Tallinn Tram and Trolleybus Company (Tallinna Trammi- ja Trollibussikoondis – TTTK) came under the ownership of the City of Tallinn as a public limited company. On 18 July 2012, the City of Tallinn carried out the legal merger of the Tallinn Bus Company (Tallinna Autobussikoondis – TAK) and the Tallinn Tram and Trolleybus Company, where TAK was registered as the acquiring company and TTTK as the company being acquired by the former. Tallinn’s new integrated public transport company was given the name Tallinna Linnatranspordi AS. In 2020, trolleybus transport in Tallinn celebrates its 55th anniversary.

Chronological table of trolleybus routes

Liikluse algusLiikluse lõppLiini nr.Liini nimetusMarsruut
6 July 19653 February 19751Estonia – HipodroomEstonia pst – Võidu väljak – Suvorovi pst – Gagarini pst – Tehnika tn – Paldiski mnt
31 October 196725 June 19692Estonia – MustamäeEstonia pst – Võidu väljak – Suvorovi pst – Gagarini pst – Tehnika tn – Paldiski mnt – Tulika tn – Sõpruse pst – Vilde tee – terminal on Akadeemia tee
26 June 1969 —2Estonia – MustamäeEstonia pst – Võidu väljak – Suvorovi pst – Endla tn – Sõpruse pst – Vilde tee – terminal on Akadeemia tee
11 July 196931 October 19773Estonia – MustamäeEstonia pst – Võidu väljak – Suvorovi pst – Endla tn – Sõpruse pst – terminal on Akadeemia tee
15 December 197024 March 19714Estonia – Balti jaamEstonia pst – Võidu väljak – Suvorovi pst – Gagarini pst – Balti jaam
25 March 197114 November 19874Balti jaam – MustamäeBalti jaam – Gagarini pst – Tehnika tn – Paldiski mnt – Tulika tn – Sõpruse pst – terminal on Akadeemia tee
25 August 1971 20175Balti jaam – MustamäeBalti jaam – Gagarini pst – Tehnika tn – Paldiski mnt – Mustamäe tee – Vilde tee – terminal on Akadeemia tee
4 February 1975¹31 October 19771Estonia – MustamäeThe route continues from Hipodroomi to the terminal in Mustamäe and along Vilde tee to the terminal on Akadeemia tee.
1 November 1977 —1 and 3Kaubamaja – MustamäeThe final stop of the routes was moved from opposite the Estonia Theatre to next to the Kaubamaja department store. The new route runs around the department store.
4 July 19809 December 19806Estonia – Väike-ÕismäeEstonia pst – Võidu väljak – Suvorovi pst – Gagarini pst – Tehnika tn – Paldiski mnt – Õismae tee (the ‘Little Roundabout’) – terminal on Järveotsa tee
10 December 198030 June 19816Estonia – Väike-ÕismäeTrolleybuses began travelling along the ‘Large Roundabout” in Õismäe.
10 December 1980December 19807Balti jaam – Väike-ÕismäeBalti jaam – Gagarini pst – Tehnika tn – Paldiski mnt – Õismae tee («väike ring») – terminal on Järveotsa tee
11 May 1981² 20167Balti jaam – Väike-ÕismäeBalti jaam – Gagarini pst – Tehnika tn – Paldiski mnt – Õismae tee (the ‘Large Roundabout’) – terminal on Järveotsa tee
1 July 198130 September 19836Estonia – Väike-ÕismäeTrolleybuses began travelling along Endla Street between Tõnismäe and Hipodroomi.
30 June 19821 April 20008Võidu väljak – Väike-ÕismäeVõidu väljak – Suvorovi pst – Gagarini pst – Tehnika tn – Paldiski mnt – Õismäe tee (the ‘Little Roundabout’) – terminal on Järveotsa tee
1 October 1983 20166Kaubamaja – Väike-ÕismäeTrolleybuses began travelling around the Kaubamaja department store, stopping at the Trade Unions House.
15 November 19876 October 19914Balti jaam – MustamäeTrolleybuses began travelling to Mustamäe along the route Tehnika tn – Endla tn. The route to Balti jaam remained unchanged.
18 December 198727 November 19929Kopli – KeskuseKopli terminal – Kalinini tn – K. Marksi pst – Tulika tn – Sõpruse pst – Keskuse terminal
7 October 199127 November 19924Balti jaam – KeskuseTrolleybuses drove to the Keskuse terminal instead of the Mustamäe terminal.
28 November 1992 —4 Balti jaam – Keskuse
Kopli – Keskuse
The route runs along Ehitajate tee and Keskuse tee to the Keskuse terminal.

¹ The route was extended to Mustamäe only on business days. From 12 April 1975, trolleybuses run to Mustamäe
  every day of the week.
² Trolleybuses only used this route during peak hours. From 1 July 1981, trolleybuses use this route at all hours.