Long Distance Corridors in Europe: Road Traffic Management and Traveller Information

Long Distance Corridors in Europe: Road Traffic Management and Traveller Information


A Winder, J-M Morin ISIS, FR; P Philipps, HB-Verkehrsconsult, DE; R Jorna, Diepens en Okkema, NL; G Ruberti, CSST, IT



This paper looks at the issue of long distance road traffic on trans-European corridors, by car, coach and lorry. It provides an analysis of user needs, the needs of operators in managing this traffic, and presents a range of good practice solutions to improve user information and traffic management (both existing and proposed measures).

The paper results from two feasibility studies on Long Distance Corridors undertaken as part of the European Commission?s Multi-annual Indicative Programme (MIP) for Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS), known as the TEMPO sub-programme. Four TEMPO ?Euro-Regional? ITS projects were involved: CENTRICO, STREETWISE, CORVETTE and SERTI. The first three projects cover a corridor from Scotland through England, Benelux/France, Germany, Switzerland/Austria to Northern Italy, whereas the SERTI corridor is from Northern France to the Mediterranean and to North West Italy and Eastern Spain.

Although the TEMPO projects are primarily concerned with ITS, many of the measures covered in this paper are not ITS-based, as in many cases quick, simple and low-cost measures are more appropriate.

Long-distance road traffic in Europe has increased significantly in recent years, due to increased mobility, trade and prosperity, improved motorway infrastructure and reduced administrative barriers between countries.

In regions such as the German Rhineland, Benelux, South East England and Northern Italy, motorway networks are already frequently congested and long-distance traffic co-exists with a large volume of local and regional traffic, which has very different needs in terms of user information, etc.

On the other hand, interurban motorways in some parts of Europe have experienced a dramatic growth in long-distance traffic. For example on the E15 motorway along the Catalan coast (French/Spanish border), total annual cross-border daily traffic has increased by 118% from 1985 to 2000, whilst HGV (Heavy Goods Vehicle) volumes increased by 278% over this period. Although such motorways do not experience capacity problems as regularly as those in peri-urban areas, they do exist on certain days of the year, e.g. traffic on a peak summer day can be 3 or 4 times higher than the annual average.

A specific issue for HGVs is that of restrictions on certain days in different countries or regions. For example, in France most goods vehicles of over 7.5 tonnes are banned from using the road network from 22:00 on Saturday to 22:00 Sunday, but the bans in neighbouring countries are different, causing large numbers of HGVs to be blocked on one side of the border at certain times.

In the longer term, work on harmonising such bans would be beneficial, however as this is a largely political issue, the focus is on information measures for HGVs and on traffic management to deal with HGV parking in border areas.

For long distance travellers in many corridors, various route choices exist. For example, in the key trans-Alpine corridor between the UK/Benelux/Germany and Northern Italy possibilities exist via France (Mont-Blanc), Switzerland (Gotthard) and Austria (Brenner). The decision point between two alternative routes is often a long way from the Alps, e.g. near Calais, Metz, Brussels, Cologne and Heidelberg going south and at Modena, Piacenza and Verona going north. Long-distance drivers are often unaware of the significance of these points and information on major incidents (lasting several hours) several hundred kilometres away need to be transmitted to drivers at such locations in order to enable them to take a different route.

Many traffic problems affect all road users, whether long-distance or not. However their effects on long-distance drivers can be more severe as they are more likely to lack knowledge of the regional road network, the language, etc. They therefore have specific needs such as multilingual information, intermodal information (e.g. for car ferries or rail shuttles through the Alps or the Channel Tunnel) and multi-modal pan-European pre-trip information.

The elements to be defined in the implementation of measures are as follows:
* Identification of problems (geographical, temporal, or user group based);
* Data exchange (amongst traffic managers, information providers, police, etc);
* Measures to deal with the problem;
* Dissemination to road users (e.g. media to be used, organisation, cost, etc).

These are discussed below.

A key issue overarching all the above stages is the institutional and organisational framework. The structure of road traffic management and information varies enormously between European countries and often also within countries. Road operators may be national or regional authorities, or toll motorway companies. In addition, private companies such as motorway service station operators, ferry companies and ports form key links in the European road network and are affected by traffic issues. In some cases (particularly for closures or re-routing) a public authority such as a regional prefecture or the police needs to approve actions, and there is often no obligation for neighbouring road authorities to co-ordinate measures.

Traffic management on cross-border corridors has improved in recent years as a result of increased co-operation, often as a result of the Euro-Regional TEMPO projects. However, in the case of long-distance corridors, many more actors are involved. This can be illustrated by the example of a road authority in Germany or Italy re-directing trans-Alpine traffic (via the Brenner or Gotthard routes). Clearly such a decision affects the Austrian and Swiss road operators and public authorities, so a mechanism needs to be incorporated to give these authorities a say in traffic management or information issues beyond their borders.

Network operators need to define problems, whether geographical (due to road network characteristics problem), temporal (peak summer days, etc) or related to specific user groups (HGVs, summer holiday traffic, etc). They also need to reach agreement on what are the most important needs: what may be a problem for Operator A in one area may not be seen as important by Operator B in the neighbouring country or region, so Operator B may decide not to inform or direct traffic heading towards Operator A?s network.

Cross-border data exchange between neighbouring operators is increasing in Europe, both by simple means (e.g. using a standard proforma fax, bilingual if necessary) and by DATEX electronic data exchange.

One improvement could be long-distance data exchange, so if a major trans-Alpine route in Switzerland is closed, drivers in Belgium, Northern France, etc can be informed in order to be able to re-route. Organisations to be contacted in the event of major disruption on a certain key route need to be defined. The issue of whether to simply provide information to road operators in other parts of Europe, or whether to request them to implement a strategic long-distance re-routing measure, also needs to be explored.

A corridor-wide Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) involving several national/regional operators could provide a solution.

Measures to deal with long-distance problems may be ?hard? measures (such as restrictions or compulsory re-routing) or ?soft? measures (such as information and advice). Because of the political implications of re-routing through a third country, ?soft? measures are preferred, except in severe cases.

The types of information that can be given include re-routing and trip re-timing information, parking information (particularly for HGVs), and modal choice information.

Information may be pre-trip or on-trip, although in many cases the same information and even the same media can be used for both.

Information, advice and instructions may be provided to users in the following locations:

* at their home, office, etc (pre-trip), by telephone, print media, Internet, TV, teletext, etc;
* roadside information whilst driving (on-trip), by fixed/changeable signing or VMS;
* in-vehicle information whilst driving (on-trip), by radio, RDS-TMC [Traffic Message Channel], navigational aids and mobile phone/WAP [if operated by a passenger]);
* roadside information whilst stopped at motorway service areas, ferry ports, on ferries, at toll booths, border posts, etc (on-trip), by Internet terminal, video screen, leaflets and maps, telephone or motorway personnel.

Information provided whilst driving needs to be as succinct as possible in order not to distract the driver. This means that complicated re-routing information cannot be conveyed and that the scope for multilingual information provision is limited.

On the other hand, pre-trip information can easily be provided in a variety of formats and languages using a range of media. Issues here include information consistency, who provides it, and making users aware of what information sources exist (particularly in other countries.

Provision of on-trip information at service areas, ferry ports, etc is an ideal opportunity for improving services to long-distance travellers. Long-distance drivers will almost certainly use one or more motorway service areas on their trip and journeys involving a sea crossing involve an obligatory stop. At such stops, drivers could obtain detailed information on routing and incidents for a range of destinations downstream. It is recommended that facilities such as TV screens, Internet terminals, information booths or simply leaflets and posters showing maps, information telephone numbers and Web addresses, etc, be provided at service areas prior to key decision points. The existence of such facilities and their relevance to a decision point can be communicated to drivers via fixed or variable message road signs.


Association for European Transport