The newspaper Dagens Industri (Sweden) has written an article about the Baltic Loop project. Dagens Industri interviewed the Swedish project manager Ahmed Alaeddine who talks about the project and how the project has identified bottlenecks in the transport system and how it enables increased cooperation, better infrastructure planning and increased sustainability in the Baltic Sea area.
“The project started in 2019 and will run until 2021, but already now we have been able to identify certain bottlenecks such as high traffic volume in relation to existing infrastructure capacity in the Oslo-Stockholm route, long queues at the borders between Estonia-Latvia and Latvia-Russia. There are also bottlenecks at the ports in the Baltic Sea area, where they are increasingly forced to adapt their operations and geographical scope in relation to growing large cities, where the consequence is that port areas have less land available. ”
Ahmed Alaeddine mentions in the article that it must be smooth and easy to transport between the Baltic Sea countries for business transport, labour, students and leisure travellers. One way to get there is to accelerate the planning and expansion of infrastructure both nationally but also across national borders, where the connection between Oslo-Stockholm is a clear example. Other important infrastructure investments include a faster railway connection between Turku-Helsinki and the new establishment of the Port of Norrvik.
The Baltic Sea Commission is an international, independent organisation of Regional Authorities at subnational level in the Baltic Sea region. We are honored for the interest about shown by them regarding the Baltic Loop project. Two representatives of the partnership – project manager Irina Wahlström at Åbo Akademi and project manager Ahmed Alaeddine at Region Örebro County were questioned and you can read the interview in the CPMR Baltic Sea Commission Newsflash (October 2020).
In the project, we have already been able to identify certain bottlenecks such as high traffic volume in relation to existing infrastructure capacity in the Oslo-Stockholm route, long queues at the borders between Estonia-Latvia and Latvia-Russia. There are also bottlenecks at the ports in the Baltic Sea area, where they are increasingly forced to adapt their operations and geographical scope in relation to growing large cities, where the consequence is that port areas have less land available, says Ahmed Alaeddine (Region Örebro County).
The planning and implementation of well-functioning traffic/transport systems is a complex and multilayered process covering many measures and elimination of transport hindrances and bottlenecks.
It affects many actors and sectors (users, planners, authorities and administrations) of the society on all levels. Thus, the process needs to involve and encourage all stakeholders, to a greater extent, to develop more open and transparent communication, better cooperation and a stronger commitment to establish a coordinated, long-term vision and holistic approach to transport system planning, says project manager Irina Wahlström at Åbo Akademi.
The Finnish partners, who are also the project’s Lead partner, have chosen to use a research method to validate the results, which would allow them to ascertain the conclusions expressed and summarized after interviews with stakeholders.
A field study was done to do the traffic flow test and this was done by organizing a long vehicle tour. The trips took place in September 2020, traveling the same route three times to obtain objective data.
The truck drive started from the Turku port and stopped at Vaalimaa border control station between Finland and Russia and returned back to Turku port on the following day. The whole tour timing was planned to imitate real driving situation after the ferry has arrived to port of Turku.
The idea was to get own empirical evidence about the existing bottlenecs and delays along the corridor. For the documentation the special videocamera was used and special GIS-software to combine specific location with time to record driving time at roadsector. One of the cargo terminals was also visited during the trip. During the trips, interviews were also conducted with drivers to find out their views on the main problems in the corridor and how they think they could be solved.
The trips were organized on schedule. The first test trip took place in September,2020 and the next ones were scheduled for October, 2020. Ports and terminals will be surveyed in detail in October and November, 2020 to complete the present stay-of-art of delays and bottlenecs linked to them.
The tours were proceeded by four students of logistics and transportation which were doing both the driving and also did interviews with the real long vehicles` drivers.
The whole trip was 680 km long and it took nearly 9,5 hours to drive from Turku port to Vaalimaa border control.
Tentatively the bottlenecks were linked with 1) road construction work and are technical but non-persistent at their nature, 2) traffic lights at certain junctions accesses to E-18 especially at the Helsinki RingRoad III but also somewhere else. Ring Road III is also very sensitive to road accidents causing traffic jams and 3) Resting areas are not properly planned for long vehicles. It is planned to expand the detailed analysis a little later.
Reccomendations and Solutions
The field survey investigations described above will form the basis for concrete recommendations about technical and non-technical solutions and how to break down the bottlenecks. It forms an important part to combine the whole picture concerning the corridor bottlenecks. The report consisting of data from test driving and terminal and port investigation will be ready soon.
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.
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!
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
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
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)
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)
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.
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