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ITS: What European countries are doing

ITS: What European countries are doing
Intelligent transportation systems are more and more deployed across Europe as governments and the private sector turn to information and communication technologies to help solve some of the most dire transportation issues facing residents, for example congestion and pollution. Many nations in Europe, including Greece and the United Kingdom, have rolled out related technologies and solutions to reduce traffic and convenience travelers.


Like the rest of Europe, Greece is faced with a variety of transportation issues, which have prompted authorities to turn to ITS. “Greece is facing transportation challenges related to high road congestion, especially during peak hours, causing a significant increase in travel time and low level of road safety which often leads to accidents and high environmental pollution,” said Evangelos Mitsakis, Senior Researcher for Transportation at the Center for Research and Technology Hellas.
He noted that the development of intelligent transport systems is a strategic decision for the European Union and Greece, as laid down in Greece’s National ITS Strategy and National ITS Architecture. “Intelligent transportation systems manage to succeed in dealing with those issues after handling the demand of travel, supporting eco-friendly choices of transportation and optimal use of the already existing capacity of transport networks and infrastructure, and enhancing competitiveness and economic growth,” he said. “The provided information to the travelers, global positioning systems, dynamic routing, cooperative intelligent transportation systems and the dissemination of information through various digital communication channels enhance traffic flow, minimize road accidents and decrease air pollution, leading to the enhancement of safety and efficiency levels.”
According to Mitsakis, Greece presents a large number of ITS projects – most of which are geographically located in the urban areas of Athens and Thessaloniki – and there are four main priority areas for ITS deployment in accordance to the EC’s ITS Directive:
  • Optimal use of road, traffic and travel data, in order to optimize route planning, provide real time information about the status, the operational and the traffic conditions of the roads to the travelers.
  • Continuity of traffic and freight management ITS services for traffic management solutions through application programs and technology for gathering, storing, analyzing, and providing access to cargo data to help users in decision making.
  • Road safety and security applications to help drivers avoid an accident or mitigate the consequences of an accident.
  • Linking the vehicle with the transport infrastructure, by using applications that stimulate the interconnection between the vehicle and the road infrastructure.
He added that some of the ongoing projects include “Crocodile 2” – a Connecting Europe Facility-funded project aiming to develop and operationalize the National Access Point for ITS collected datasets; Athens traffic management center, ITS services in Egnatia National Motorway, integrated traffic management system in Thessaloniki, geographical information system of the North Aegean Region, innovative drivers’ information system for emergency road incidents and free parking places in the Municipality of Nestos, harmonized e-call European pilot and cooperative mobility systems pilot in Thessaloniki.
Advanced information and communication technologies are used in these projects, Mitsakis mentioned. “The major technological systems and technologies related to ITS in the road traffic management field are: cooperative systems and technologies, real-time traffic and travel information services, traffic management systems including emergency management, implementation and use of RDS-TMC/GSM broadcast technology, TMC and TPEG 16 -TISA 17 real-time navigation, floating vehicle data collection and public transport telematics systems,” he said. “Developments associated with traffic management centers include applications and projects that are using telematics in highways, GPS and mobile communication technology, intelligent traffic signal control, incident detection and management, priority to specific types of vehicles such as emergency and public transport vehicles, intelligent lane control, speed limits enforcement, longer distance diversions re-routing, data collection and single fare collection systems.”
The end results, according to Mitsakis, are improved traveling experience for the residents of Greece. “Through these, drivers are subject to reduced risk as the highways are made safer, get information about the current traffic flow conditions in order to choose alternative routes, save travel time and benefit from reduced road congestion, while the toll collection process is simplified,” he said.

United Kingdoms

Similarly in the U.K., ITS efforts have been implemented to make roads safer and easier to use. “We have significant issues with congestion and air quality, and sophisticated traffic management solutions is in use to meet both these challenges,” said Jennie Martin, Secretary General of ITS United Kingdom. “Free flow charging is becoming the norm, for example in London, Dartford and Humber Bridge. Sophisticated, dynamic traffic management techniques are in widespread use. Our roads are some of the safest in Europe, in part thanks to ITS based solutions such as average speed enforcement systems.”
Specifically, the mobility-as-a-service (MaaS) concept has taken hold in the U.K. and is being trialed in certain metropolises. “There is significant interest in mobility as a service, particularly in Birmingham and in Manchester,” Martin said.
MaaS refers to the integration of different modes of transportation, be they publicly-run or privately-run, on a single user account held by the user who can then hail vehicles, rent bicycles and pay for them with different devices including smartphones. According to the web portal ITS International, a fully operational MaaS offering is being piloted in the West Midlands region of the U.K., covering seven local authorities which make up the West Midlands metropolitan area, including the Borough of Birmingham. The initial pilot includes buses, trams, taxis and car hire, while rail services are awaiting final sign-off, the report said. A wider bike share is being investigated for the West Midlands which will be integrated with MaaS and other mobility services, it added.
As for the future, Martin is optimistic about ITS’s wider deployment in her country as well as Europe. “All other aspects of life and society are increasingly based on connectivity – why would transport be different? ITS delivers a more reliable, less polluting, higher capacity transport network at a fraction of the cost of civil engineering interventions both in terms of money and environmental impact,” she said.

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