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We are building St. Petersburg. Trolley bus driver

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The web of trolley bus wires has covered almost the entire St. Petersburg. Residents have long got used to this mean of transportation. Vitaliy Lukk is one of those who gets on the bus every day. Earlier than anyone else. Simply because a bus won’t go anywhere without a driver.

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Vitaliy Lukk, trolley bus driver at "GorElektroTrans": “I had a dream once when I was a kid – to work in public transportation. Parents were not exactly angry at me with such aspirations, but were still bewildered – why would I want something like that? Now they’re proud of me. 

The web of trolley bus wires has covered almost the entire St. Petersburg. Residents have long got used to this mean of transportation. Vitaliy Lukk is one of those who gets on the bus every day. Earlier than anyone else. Simply because a bus won’t go anywhere without a driver. 

Vitaliy Lukk, trolley bus driver at "GorElektroTrans": “I remember that when I was little a liked to play as a bus driver. Drew a control panel, took a saucer cover and imagined it was a steering wheel. And when I was old enough to ride public transport, I got attracted to trolley buses. Yup, to trolley buses specifically. 

Trolley bus routes occupy all of the city’s main streets – from Suzdalsky Prospekt in the North to Prospekt Veteranov in the South. The longest route – number one – goes through four districts: Nevskiy, Central, Vasileostrovskiy and Petrogradskiy. The shortest one – number 47, in Kupchino – is only three kilometers long. 

Andrey Gorev, professor at faculty of transport systems at St. Petersburg Architecture and Construction University: “First of all, it’s an electric transport, so it doesn’t make harmful emissions into the atmosphere. On Nevskiy Prospekt, if we replace all trolley buses with regular buses, people will just run away, not being able to breathe normally. Besides, a trolley bus is more convenient for a passenger – because the engine takes no chunk of the interior, so it fully belongs to the riders. Its floors are low, so it’s convenient to get into and move about. It also takes more passengers and more comfortable than buses. 

Vitaliy Lukk, trolley bus driver at "GorElektroTrans": “Compared to buses and trams, it is a very quiet mean of transport. Realistically, the only noise it makes while moving is of rear suspension – a spinning redactor – and hydraulic actuator”

Every work day for him is a small adventure. He’s only 29, but has already become the first-class bus driver. He knows all trolley bus routes in the city. Although, just 8 years ago relatives were envisaging a totally different future for Vitaliy. Graduate of sociology faculty at St. Petersburg University quit an HR manager work and went to train as a trolley bus driver. 

Vitaliy Lukk, trolley bus driver at "GorElektroTrans": “In 2008, when I came to apply for a job at the trolley bus company, I was told at first that I did not fit the profile and won’t get the job. I was surprised and even a little hurt by these words. Why – I thought to myself. Well – I was told – you graduated from the university, so what are you doing here? Just here for the time of the crisis, and then you going to leave? Besides, they said, you are so tall you won’t fit into a trolley bus. I am 198 centimeters tall, which is genetic in my case. My father is even taller than me. But I managed to fit into those buses with no issues whatsoever. 

− Hello

− Hello

Vitaliy Lukk, trolley bus driver at "GorElektroTrans": “Mywork day starts with a trip to a doctor. I check in, sign papers that I’m ready for work, that I’m feeling ok. Also do a necessary alcohol test. If all my stats are ok, the doctor stamps my papers, I get the approval and go to dispatcher” 

− There you go!

− Thanks, good bye!

− Have a good one

− I’ve taken my documents already

− You are to leave the lot at 2.30pm

− Thanks, bye and have a good day

Vitaliy Lukk, trolley bus driver at "GorElektroTrans": “The dispatcher then approves me to work. In his office I can also get some information – of suspended traffic or detours. Or some kind of new assignments”

The “electronic instruction” system checks daily how well drivers know the rules. Having correctly answered 5 questions, the employee gets “Approved for work” status.

Nikolay Petrov, head engineer of moving cars service at “GorElektroTrans”: “The traffic situation these days is complicated, while the driver is responsible for all the passengers. He has to drive them with comfort, speed and safety. All these things mix badly with the current situation on the roads, that’s why the main thing is how drivers handle the stress and being professional about it”

The next step after “electronic instruction” is the check-up of the trolley bus. 

Vitaliy Lukk, trolley bus driver at "GorElektroTrans": “The trolley bus is parked in the lot – which we call a fan. That’s where we are heading”

Vitaliy Lukk, trolley bus driver at "GorElektroTrans": “Dielectric gloves protect from electrocution. Before putting these one, we have to check it by blowing into it – if it gets full, then its intact”

Wearing those, we are connecting the trolleys – having warned others.

Car number 219! Connecting the trolleys!

Vitaliy Lukk, trolley bus driver at "GorElektroTrans": “External check-up of a trolley bus can now be considered complete”

You’re welcome!

A modern-day trolley bus is a 12-meter vehicle, although there are the so-called “accordions” – which are 18 meters long. They can take up to 160 passengers and drive at 60 kilometers per hour. Although, the average speed of a trolley bus in St. Petersburg – just like that of a bus – is around 30 kilometers per hour. 

Nikolay Petrov, head engineer of moving cars service at“GorElektroTrans”: “We are working on increasing the average speed of our trolley buses. That’s why we coordinate with different committees in the city to have designated lanes for trolley buses, with special “public transport lane” signs, as well as installing traffic lights which would give the priority to public transport. 

Safe rides of public transports is also the responsibility of private drivers. Passengers on trolley buses, buses and trams are not protected by a seatbelt, that’s why there’s a substantial risk of getting an injury even in a minor traffic incident. 

Vitaliy Lukk, trolley bus driver at "GorElektroTrans":“Traffic is tough in our city. Drivers are often don’t let a trolley bus take off from a stop and then have the nerve to complain that a trolley bus driver should have let them go first. Although its them who must let public transport go first. We are not driving lumber or bricks. We are driving real people.

Every ninth person using public transportation in St. Petersburg opts for trolley buses. It took several decades for the trolley buses to get the look that we have got used to. 

Allright, lets embrace a bit of history.

Vitaliy Lukk, trolley bus driver at "GorElektroTrans": “My family has always loved to read. One of the favorite books in my childhood – encyclopedia “St. Petersburg-Petrograd-Leningrad”. It had different articles on areas of the city, objects of the urban culture, streets and names. That’s where it all began – I grew passionate about my city’s history. When I train interns, I’m telling them not only how to drive a trolley bus, but also where we are driving at. So that he understands where he’s driving through. 

The museum of the city’s electric transport. It’s a special place for Vitaliy – here he can literally embrace the history of his beloved profession. He feels totally comfortable in the driving seat of a retro trolley bus

Vitaliy Lukk, trolley bus driver at "GorElektroTrans": “Yes, I was lucky – drove it twice to Kronschtadt. On this very trolley bus. And it’s a very interesting feeling – wooden steering wheel, wooden driver’s compartment and a lot of wood in general. 

It’s a bit tight. Probably, drivers of the past were shorter. I would not have got this job.

Vitaliy Lukk, trolley bus driver at "GorElektroTrans": “It’s quite hard to steer it, because it does not have a steering wheel actuator. But it is also smaller than the modern-day trolley buses, so it’s not a big problem” 

Vitaliy Lukk, trolley bus driver at "GorElektroTrans": “I generally think that every public transport driver has to take interest in the history of the transport he’s working on”

Vitaliy Lukk, trolley bus driver at "GorElektroTrans": “I’ve been having a hobby – collecting vintage photos of public means of transport. I’ve been in touch with a lot of people – including foreign photographers who used to come to the Soviet Union in the 1970’s and 80’s and took pictures of trolley buses, buses and trams. I have a substantial collection on my computer back home.

This year, St. Petersburg’s trolley bus turns 80. In 1936, the first YATB-1 model trolley bus made a trip from Alexander Nevskiy Square (it was then called Krasnaya) to Truda Square. Warm and cosy – it immediately won the trust of the residents. Over the decades, the trolley buses have become more convenient and larger. Nowadays, this quiet eco-friendly transport rides through the new streets of St. Petersburg. 

Lately, the number of those willing to become trolley bus drivers has increased. Moreover, those applying for the job are mostly under the age of thirty. “GorElektroTrans” keeps constant driver lessons. 

Nikolay Petrov, head engineer of moving cars service at “GorElektroTrans”: “Random people cannot become drivers with us. They have to go through complicated testing routine – which starts with a visit to a psychologist in our training center. After which they go through exams and approval processes. Their final exam is obtaining a driver’s license. Then they head to the lot, where they are also tested by their management – even there those unfit for driving a trolley bus can still be seeded out. 

Vitaliy Lukk, trolley bus driver at “GorElektroTrans: “There are a lot of youths now – I see them often when I show up at the training facility. I come down to the cantina and see a lot of young people. And it makes me glad. I think it’s largely connected to the fact that we now have better conditions and higher salaries. Also, these new guys can see what kind of trolley buses were on the streets, let’s say, 10 or 15 years ago. And now the new ones have arrived – with AC, comfortable seats – you feel like you’re driving a fancy foreign car”

But modernizing trolley buses is mostly concerning the passengers, not the drivers. Standing at a bus stop, passengers will always know when the next trolley bus would arrive – all of those are now equipped with GLONASS GPS system. A ticket person will soon be replaced with an automated payment system. Besides, WIFI and TV screens will also be installed in those new-generation trolley buses. 

Nikolay Petrov, head engineer of moving cars service at“GorElektroTrans”: ”Our company is ahead of everyone in St. Petersburg. We are now launching new routes with new, yet unused vehicles. Namely – trolley buses with increased autonomous transportation. 

Every year trolley bus drivers have a professional competition – its nationwide stage took place in St. Petersburg this time. The real pro must be able to do everything – not let a granny fall inside the car, while not hitting a cone. Drive fast, but smoothly. And don’t forget about the culture of interaction with the passengers.

Vitaliy Lukk, trolley bus driver at "GorElektroTrans": “Our route takes us through Muzhestva Square. It has a lot of landmarks. One of which is “Sosnovka” park – which housed a military aerodrome during the war. A monument was set up on the main alley in the park to mark that. Next stop – Sosnovka park! Careful, doors are closing!

Vitaliy Lukk, trolley bus driver at "GorElektroTrans": “Here, generally speaking, obstacle course was performed very tidily. Not a single cone was hit”

Vitaliy Lukk successfully passed all challenges and came 3rd in the city’s competition. However, the strategy of St. Petersburg public transportation system’s development will let drivers avoid obstacle courses in their working life. 

Huge history and huge future. A trolley bus as a symbol of public transportation. Dozens of routes, hundreds of drivers and millions of passengers. Every one of us is part of the big city. What will itbe like tomorrow? We decide. We are building our city together. Every single one of us is building St. Petersburg.

Vitaliy Lukk, trolley bus driver at "GorElektroTrans": “When people come over and say “thank you”  - its very pleasing. Even when they don’t thank me, I still feel good when, for instance, I wait for someone who runs to catch my trolley bus. Im happy that he or she managed to get on. They might not tell me anything. Sowhat? I know this person is glad to have caught up with the bus.

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