STAY UP TO DATE with the latest news: Newsletter #4

STAY UP TO DATE with the latest news: Newsletter #4

You are welcome to get acquainted with the latest Newsletter issued by the Baltic Loop project.

Find the Newsletter (.pdf, 4.13MB) >> HERE<< .

This time we invite you to read about the outcomes of the survey in three transport corridors.

Qualitative data from interviews and surveys with stakeholders have been collected – interesting information is expected to help reduce barriers to the smooth flow of transport and save time spent on the way.

We also invite you to read about the latest activities in the project, because, despite the difficult conditions created by the situation with Covid-19, the work continues.

A field survey was conducted with real-time test drives to check and detect bottlenecks in a particular transport corridor (Youtube video). Work is also underway on the development of various planning documents, as well as a number of face-to-face and online meetings and seminars.

Sometimes solving problems will require significant changes in the system, other times it is just necessary to come together and think creatively.

Background of the article`s photo by Ryoji Iwata on Unsplash

Stakeholders in Latvia develop SWOT analysis to reduce traffic bottlenecks and hindrances

Stakeholders in Latvia develop SWOT analysis to reduce traffic bottlenecks and hindrances

On September 22, a valuable working session took place in Riga within the framework of the international project Baltic Loop. Discussion participants from state and municipal institutions, Riga planning region and industry experts created a SWOT analysis on how to reduce traffic bottlenecks and hindrances. The work will continue in the next sessions but in the meantime some good lessons from the discussion!

Strengths

Strengths:

  • Clearly understood policy planning system in Latvia
  • Cooperation between the administration of the Riga planning region and the local governments of the region in all areas, incl. in the transport sector
  • Inter-ministerial working groups to address specific issues in the transport sector
  • A common vision for integration into the Single European Transport Area

Opportunities

Options:

  • Exploiting the research and development (R&D) potential of higher education and research institutions in transport planning
  • Identification and use of examples of good practice from Europe and other countries of the world in the Latvian transport sector
  • Use of synergies of EU cross-border as well as other projects in the development of the Latvian transport system
  • Experience in dealing with emergencies (Covid-19) and increasing the speed of decision-making
  • Development of smart and environmentally friendly technologies and their impact on the development of the transport sector

Weaknesses

  • Congestion with policy planning documents, frequent amendments to legislation
  • Lack of vision/strategy for overall long-term transport development
  • Rapid staff turnover at the decision-making level, which makes communication difficult
  • Non-systematic cooperation between public administration and academic environment (use of research results)

Threats

  • Lack of common policies and measures at the level of EU Member States, including to eliminate the consequences of Covid-19
  • Developments in unforeseen political events in the Eastern neighbor countries and the impact on international transport flows
  • The unpredictability of the Latvian legal environment (changes)
The online seminar raises the question of the importance of data for transport development

The online seminar raises the question of the importance of data for transport development

On September 15, Vidzeme Planning Region organized an online seminar “TRAFFIC AND DATA. What can we get? How to use it?” to update the importance of data in the development of the transport sector, as well as to outline how it is practically possible to obtain data, how to collect it, and how to use it meaningfully. The online workshop brought together around 50 participants who had the opportunity to hear the experiences of four knowledgeable industry professionals on the possibilities of using the data.

The seminar was organized within the framework of the Baltic Loop project.

It’s all about data available in a portable format

Mikus Jēkabsons (Public Services Department), a representative of the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Regional Development, emphasized that data is an increasingly important resource. He reminded once again what open data is and in what formats it can be found. The data is used by a very wide range of professionals, from journalists and researchers to entrepreneurs to develop new products and services, as well as to enable institutions to work more efficiently, including to save money. A broader insight into the opportunities provided by the open data portal data.gov.lv was provided. M. Jēkabsons has observed that both state institutions and local governments often lack an understanding of how to distinguish data (for example, local government budget by sectors) from information (for example, minutes of local government council meetings) and what is really open data (data in machine-readable format, provided to the public).

Decisions should not be based on intuition

Mihails Savrasovs (Faculty of Computer Science and Information Technology, Transport and Telecommunication Institute in Latvia) spoke about the possibilities of data modeling, revealing how to make better use of data, in what levels of detail they can be viewed. “Modeling is a powerful tool that allows you to analyze complex systems and make data-based decisions,” Savrasov said, calling for intuition-free decisions.
M.Savrasov has also concluded that modeling is only a tool because everything is based on data and their level of detail. This is one of the problems that prevent the full potential of the data from being realized.
Continuing, the expert pointed out the paradox – although information and communication technologies are constantly evolving and
new data sets are available, but many of them are still not publicly available on the grounds of trade secrets or personal data protection regulation. This is a problem that needs to be addressed.

Missing data can also be generated by the population

Nika Aleksejeva from the association “Data School” briefly outlined the goals of the organization and told about the potential of citizen participation in creating new data that is currently missing for the industry. In order to get people to respond, it is important to be able to convince them that participation is not just formal, that it is followed by feedback – a positive stimulus, such as solving a problem identified by the citizen or sorting out an identified problem area. N. Aleksejeva told in more detail about the course of the previously implemented project “Bicycle Data”, within the framework of which the load of bicycle lanes in Riga was studied with the active involvement of the society. Currently, another project is being implemented – “Veloslazdi”, which, by involving cyclists, allows to identify the shortcomings of the bicycle infrastructure in the city. As of May 1, 2020, 950 bicycle traps have been reported. The problems are compiled and submitted to the Riga City Council Traffic Department for resolution, while volunteer enthusiasts later inspect the sites to see if the problem has been resolved. N. Aleksejeva points out: “Nowadays, technically anyone can implement this type of platform project. The question is: who will give the data, what will happen to the data afterwards, will the delivery of the data make sense, is the expected result clear and will there be feedback? ”

The data collected must be used to solve problems in the urban environment

Māris Mielavs, Head of Jelgava City Municipality Institution “Pilsētsaimniecība” and Māris Skudra, Head of Infrastructure Management Systems Division of “Pilsētsaimniecība” spoke about the opportunities that allow the development of modern cities, revealing how traffic data is obtained and used in Jelgava urban development planning.
Seven types of data storage tools are used in the city of Jelgava. The various systems allow access to accurate data (eg traffic volume, intensity, speed, trajectories) at any time and place, successfully addressing the limited capacity of human resources and at the same time saving municipal funds. One example is a sensor built into the carriageway that, in response to a magnetic field generated by a car, provides information on the number of cars that are later used to model flow rates and optimize traffic light signaling to improve intersection permeability. Such activities need to be carried out, for example, at the start of a new school year, when significantly more vehicles appear on the streets in the morning and afternoon.
Vehicle counting and classification equipment not only collects data but also helps to address safety issues, as it often helps to identify the causes of accidents, identify culprits and make infrastructure improvements when needed in a given situation to avoid future accidents.
The attendees were especially interested in the meteorological stations installed in the city of Jelgava, which help to predict the possibility of black ice, allowing to plan the treatment of the road surface in time.

A vision for the spatial development perspective of the Via Hanseatica tourism and transport corridor will be developed in Vidzeme

A vision for the spatial development perspective of the Via Hanseatica tourism and transport corridor will be developed in Vidzeme

By the end of 2020, a vision for the development of the Via Hanseatica tourism and transport corridor 2030 will be developed in the Vidzeme planning region. The expected result is a spatial development planning document that would help to improve the flow of passengers and tourists in the Vidzeme planning region. This would not only identify potential solutions to improve the region’s attractiveness in terms of mobility, but also make practical proposals to reduce travel time and improve passenger access to the corridor from the hinterland.

The document is intended to include recommendations, for example, on how to optimize routes, how to improve the flow of information on traffic routes, how to provide more convenient public transport connections, etc. During the development of the plan, meetings with stakeholders interested in the economic development of Vidzeme, ie representatives of state and municipal institutions, entrepreneurs and tourism and transport experts, will be organized to analyze the conditions hindering the smooth and convenient flow of passengers in the corridor and receive suggestions on what improvements may be needed to address the problem.

The final document is expected to be useful both for entrepreneurs and investors to make decisions on starting, improving or expanding a business, as well as for local governments in the region, which will be able to use the document when planning the development of their territories. The conclusions will also be binding on public administration institutions, such as the Ministry of Transport, the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Regional Development, and the Ministry of Economics, in carrying out work on the development and updating of national level development planning documents.

Via Hanseatica is a historically significant international transport, tourism,and trade corridor connecting the eastern part of the Baltic Sea region with the central regions of the European Union on the route Riga-Valmiera-Tartu-Narva-St. Petersburg.

This transport corridor and the adjacent territory serve as an important tourism development corridor, but one of the limiting factors for achieving its full potential is the availability and quality of transport services. Both local and foreign tourists, when looking for an alternative mode of transport to personal road transport, face the fragmentation of the proposed transport solutions, lack of digitally available information, as well as uncoordinated public transport times, which hinder convenient movement between several tourist attractions near the corridor. Tourists also face various obstacles when choosing personal transport, such as the quality of infrastructure (condition of roads, lack of directions).

Field surveys of transport bottlenecks in transport corridors: tackling of bottlenecks

Field surveys of transport bottlenecks in transport corridors: tackling of bottlenecks

Bottlenecks in the northern transport corridor (E-18; form Turku/Naantali to Vaalimaa, Russian border) have been identified through surveys, workshops and interviews. The purpose was to observe the obstacles and nodes of the transport and to find out what time it takes in the transport corridors of the Baltic Loop project. Unfortunately, Covid19 messed up the plans and observation will continue in the autumn 2020 .

Field survey started with pilot route to observe (see video) the old route from the port of Turku to Paimio (Satama-Tukholmankatu-Ratapihankatu-highway 1-Paimio). This route is forbidden to heavy trucks by the Turku City Council order. Anyway, the idea was to test the research methods and at the same time compare the “old route” with the current situation in which the heavy traffic from Turku port is forced to use Turku Ring Road.

Preliminary results of test driving

The result of this preliminary test drive was quite clear; the old route (now forbidden of city council) from/to Turku port can be even 15-20 minutes faster than the new one demonstrated by the test drive. So far, the results are only tentative. It will need some more testing. It can be assumed that in capital areas (Ring Road III) where numerous terminals are located similar delays originated from compulsory route choice set by civil servants will exist. Our coming test driving throughout the road corridors will reveal the hindrances.

Baltic Loop field surveys and observations along the gateways

The implementers of the field survey are the Bachelor students of Turku University of Applied Sciences and the students of the Turku Vocational Institute in the field of transport. The aim is to verify the bottlenecks along the identified by surveys, workshops and interviews. The route was driven with a loaded semi-trailer driven by a driver student and a graph and observations documented by an engineering student. In addition to the description, information on the speed of transport was collected with GPS equipment that recorded both location and time. By analyzing the data, it is possible to present suggestions to the street planners and operators to streamline traffic.

Later in the autumn, observations will be made on the Naantali-Örebro, Naantali-Russian border, Tallinn-Riga and Riga-Ventspils routes as well (Middle and South gatewys) . In Finland and Sweden, freight traffic is studied, and in the Baltic countries, passenger traffic on both rail and road is studied too.

Results of field work

By combining data form 1) field surveys, 2) questionnaire and 3) stakeholder interviews and meetings (ports, civil servants, truck companies etc,) we can collect and analyze the most important hindrances and bottlenecks and finally present development suggestions.

Photo by Quintin Gellar from Pexels

Identifying the bottlenecks on Middle Corridor, the rail freight perspective

Identifying the bottlenecks on Middle Corridor, the rail freight perspective

Baltic Sea is one of the most heavily trafficked seas in the world. To put simply, it is a connecting point for all countries lying on the shores of it. In Estonia, the Baltic Sea has always been a highway for trade and we have been active in logistics since the Viking era and later as an active member of the Hanseatic League what dominated Baltic maritime trade for three centuries. Looking at the logistics it seems that we have always been connection between East and West, especially connecting Russia and Western-Europe.

Project Baltic Loop has defined a middle corridor that stretches from Oslo-Örebro-Stockholm to Tallinn-St. Petersburg. While we have regular connections between Sweden and Estonia, the usual trade and logistics routes seem not to use the full potential of Estonian geographical position and historic reputation as traders between East and West.

Business Development manager of Estonian Railways Ltd, Arthur Raichmann, believes that there are several unused opportunities for Scandinavian trade.

“A large number of freight corridors have been built in the Baltics to move freight to Asia. These were mainly used during the Gulf War, when the entire US military supply line ran along the railways (Afghanistan, Iran, etc.).  There is no more demand for these corridors today,” he says.

Scandinavian trade with Europe is done mostly by sea. The main export sectors of Finland and Sweden are paper and wood products, which do not travel by rail towards Europe. Goods are mainly transported by sea to Hamburg-Rotterdam and moved on from there by rail. There are some initiatives to challenge current models as the EU has defined a number of Ten-T rail networks. RFC 8 (Rail Freight Corridor) is the one connecting the core of the EU to Tallinn.

Estonian Railways have conducted a study on trade between Scandinavia and China. Sweden and Denmark have the largest volumes of goods, but today there is no trade by rail. The potential was addressed in TransEstonia 2020 conference, where the intention was to find a potential Swedish-Chinese freight corridor.

However, the issue is never as simple as just defining the corridors and getting the freight. “Developed supply chains are important and do not tend to change easily,” explains Raichmann, “. Change the done when something is not working properly. In this business, change is slow and trust plays an important role.”

From the perspective of Estonian Railways more or less all of our transit freight is connected to our great neighbor since more than 80% of all flows on the Estonian railway come from Russia. More than half of these volumes are different fertilizers or similar products. This creates some delicate issues as in some cases these dangerous goods are traveling via Tallinn city center towards Paldiski ports. Hele-Mai Metsal, Head of Development Department in the Port of Tallinn (the company that owns and operates in Paldiski South Harbour) notes that the rail capacity is limited (possible only at night time in Tallinn) and noise is disturbing the city residents. So all in all dangerous goods, heavy freight trains at night, and Tallinn residential areas do not match too well. This is why missing the Tallinn bypass railway connection is one of the bottlenecks that stands out.

Coming back to the trade, the unused potential is quite large due to political reasons.

“To describe the situation, it can be said that all corridors that reach Estonia come from Russia,” says Raichmann. The negotiations to get a competitive price for railway sections in Russia are difficult and Russian national interests are supporting ports of Ust-Luga and Kaliningrad.

The solutions more-or-less seem to rely on diplomacy. This combined with a push from a powerful market force like Finnish – Swedish timber industry can hopefully hand the key to unlock the Russian transit market, hopes Raichmann. It is questionable if this could bring back the heyday akin to Russian crude-oil transit through Estonia, but the capacity of Estonian ports and railway could be in much better use.

Photo by Ethan Cull on Unsplash