The start of this year presented an intriguing opportunity to simultaneously look forwards and backwards into the ‘twenty-ten’ and ‘noughties’ decades and allow reflection on the implications of recent international occurrences, and in particular how they affected transportation
In contrast with an apparently burgeoning UK economy and positive personal expectations in the ‘noughties’ the onset of this decade has been dominated by the parlous state of the UK’s finances following the recent and unprecedented financial crisis. Added to this has been the shift of emphasis towards climate change represented by a growing awareness and appreciation of the consumption of finite resources in conjunction with the ‘knock-on’ effect of how this influences the global population’s lives, livelihoods and economies. In addition, technological development continues apace and the speed and power of computerisation remains a wonder to all; other than those who are ‘in-the-know’ and are engaged in its development. All of these issues have a marked effect on individuals’ daily lives and extend across the full spectrum of topics, including transportation. The implications for ITS systems have been profound as changes in mainstream transport requirements have increasingly integrated and embedded intelligent transport technologies into transport infrastructure; more importantly they have necessitated their acceptance and adoption as integral elements of transport planning.
There is every expectation, following the forthcoming UK General Election, that there will have to be sizeable public expenditure cuts to help ‘balance the books’ and transportation will undoubtedly have to ‘shoulder its share of the burden’. It is probable that these cuts will last for an extended period and all major project works, including road building schemes and infrastructure links, will be closely scrutinised. With the High Speed Rail project investment likely to take a number of years to implement there has to be a cost-effective ‘stop-gap’ that facilitates travel over a progressively congested road and rail network. The impact of transport cuts must be mitigated by other measures; it is in these areas that ITS can assist as the implementation costs are relatively low and are unlikely to include high cost hardware installations.
Most of these technologies are already in place and they are poised to become a major contributor thus naturally filling the technology gaps where there is a lack of available funding. This opportunity could prove vital for ITS technologies to firmly establish themselves within all transport infrastructure options. Significant enhancements in public transport ticketing, based upon internet and mobile phone ticketing, have rendered ‘one-stop’ multi-modal travel options a reality with future developments continuing to make substantial strides in these areas. ITS’s ability to accentuate network management capabilities, whereby ‘informed travellers’ can maximise the capacity availability and/or amend their journey times and modal choices, has to be a significant benefit to travellers and network managers alike. ITS systems support all these developments therefore the contribution of these ‘hidden’ technologies should not be underestimated.
The issue of stability
Fossil fuel and global pollution debates are routinely exacerbated when the contribution made by transport is introduced. Climate change technologies dominate discussions in a way that has not occurred previously and, regardless of its nature, sustainability is an integral aspect in all new investment planning. Considerable efforts are being devoted to identifying alternative transportation systems, including the ‘electrification of transport’, however, it is imperative for the UK to consider the anticipated power generating capacities that are required whilst contemplating conversion of prime transport modes to electric vehicles. Massive investment in power generation will be necessary, however, with many of the UK’s existing power stations overdue closure any additional demands over and above industrial and domestic consumption generating capacity will exceed current capabilities. Future plans include the construction of a nuclear power capacity; building and commissioning is likely to take 15-20 years and the associated arguments of waste storage and disposal still need to be resolved. Even with a ‘fast-track’ approval process lengthy procurement discussions will need to determine what and how the power regeneration points and related infrastructure operate and the charging requirements in terms of how, when, and where as well as the costing and payment structures. All of this will take a considerable amount of time to devise, develop and introduce.
In the meantime ITS can offer ongoing assistance in the short, mid and long terms through enhancing vehicle engine capabilities, maximising network management and offering modal options so that travellers can determine the most efficient and cost effective travel option. A recent report, published by the Sustainable Development Commission, has called on government to install average speed cameras across the whole motorway network with the purpose of moderating driver behaviour and speeds in order to reduce pollution. It is calculated that this measure alone would ensure that motorists adhere to the 70 mph limit and would achieve a reduction of 1.4 million tonnes of carbon dioxide a year.
Concurrent to this is the development of a complex variety of technological advances; computing capabilities and speed, linked to increased integration between operating systems, means that the ever-increasing pace of information management and data transfer will continue. As far as ITS is concerned this can only be a good thing as its reputation is directly related to highly effective and reliable data acquisition, interpretation and transfer. As a consequence these advances will enhance the industry’s influence through its ability to deliver more accurate and sophisticated ‘real-time’ traveller information. There is interest in installing ITS systems such as Cooperative Vehicle Infrastructure Systems (CVIS) or Cooperative Vehicle Highways Systems (CVHS) widely throughout Europe as they will make an impact in maximising traffic flow. The success of the Active Traffic Management systems around Birmingham has prompted approval for an additional 600 kilometres across the UK’s trunk road network.
The delivery of pertinent information through effective ITS communication systems is crucial in allowing travellers to formulate their travel plans mid-journey. To avoid intrusive and costly infrastructure installation it is highly feasible that the additional systems can use ITS technologies enabling information to be broadcast directly to the vehicles. Dramatic advances in communication technologies have revolutionised how information can be relayed; public access to ‘real-time’ ‘online’ information via computers and/or mobile devices means that there is an insatiable demand for appropriate information to satisfy the requirements. The credibility of ITS systems is directly allied to its ability to deliver passenger information to the travelling public allowing them to be fully aware and up-to-date on accurate and reliable traveller information.
Whilst reflecting on the current and past decades it is illuminating to focus on one example where ITS’s influence on transportation can be readily demonstrated. A series of global sporting events scheduled throughout the decade beginning with the Winter Olympic Games in Canada, the 2010 FIFA Soccer World Cup in South Africa and the Commonwealth Games in Delhi later this year. As in preceding decades there will be a succession of international sporting events including athletics, rugby, golf and football tournaments; and as far as the United Kingdom is concerned the most important of all of these events is the London Games in 2012.
The success of all of these sporting events is reliant upon an efficient and reliable transport infrastructure that has the capability of handling huge numbers of competitors, officials, VIPs, spectators and other visitors. 7.7 million spectator tickets are available over the period of the London Games with around 800,000 available for events taking place on the busiest days. These Games will attract over five million visitors to the UK and will need to accommodate those individuals and companies who need to maintain normal personal and commercial life and activities in and around London. 100 kilometres of Olympic Routes Network, including lanes on major roads in and out of London, and ITS technologies will be used to facilitate the passages of VIPs, competitors and officials between the Olympic venues, Central London, Heathrow and other routes.
Terrorist bomb attacks on preferred ‘soft-target’ option has radically affected how public transport security is managed therefore considerable consideration is given to ensuring traveller safety. It is a discrete balance between safety and intrusion and, as far as the spectators are concerned, their sole assessment of the Games success will be determined by the event spectacle and the ease, simplicity, punctuality and effectiveness of the travel. ITS systems have supplemented the previous reliance on human and technical resourcing and their inclusion as mainstream technologies is testament to their effectiveness and should be acknowledged and advertised accordingly.
ITS in Europe
The relentless progress of ITS development has prompted the EU Commission to review how ITS should be introduced throughout the Member States therefore it has been devising and refining an ITS Action Plan in recent years. This has gone through various consultation stages and the imminent ratification of an EU ITS Directive will complete a process that will set in train a series of implementation schemes that individual countries will be expected to pursue. The Directive’s aim is to introduce a pan-European approach and attitude towards implementing ITS whilst acknowledging that individual Member States will progress their own implementation strategies.
The EU Commission has made a firm commitment through this Directive that ITS has a crucially important role and that some form of common regulation is necessary. Whilst individual nations may baulk at certain aspects of the Directive there is no doubt that it will set out the template that EU Member States will be encouraged to follow. The consequence of this is that major ITS developments are more likely to have widespread pan-European coordination. Can that be a bad thing for ITS’s future?
For more information
This article is an extract from the ITS (UK) Handbook, which will be available this spring via firstname.lastname@example.org