Transport and communications ministers from the European Union (EU) have been meeting in Cyprus this week to discuss the organization’s progress on the implementation of intelligent transport systems (ITS) across the continent, in order to remove some of the frustrations regularly faced by travelers. The problems include not being able to plan connections between rail and bus services on trans-national trips and the shortage of real-time traffic and weather information. EU officials have told ministers that traveling across Europe by rail, coach, car or other services would become easier if national governments would do a better job of sharing information and using technology to improve trip planning. Officials have said better journey planning and information sharing can reduce traffic delays by 20% and traffic accidents by 30%, and ITS systems are faster and cheaper ways to improve mobility.
The EU’s push to spread communication technologies across transport systems is mainly aimed at tackling increased road congestion. According to figures used by the European Commission, road freight is expected to rise by 55% and passenger road transport 36% by 2020. One direct result of the growing congestion is a subsequent increase in energy consumption, with its negative environmental impact. Carbon dioxide emissions from transport are expected to grow 15% by 2020, EU figures show. Better travel cooperation is part of broader EU policies aimed at creating more efficient and safer travel. The EU is currently implementing an emergency alert system (eCall) in vehicles based on the pan-European 112 emergency number. The Commission wants to tap the Connecting Europe Facility and Horizon 2020 to help fund ITS deployment. The EU has tried to spur development of ITS through public-sector information sharing and wants to promote re-use of such public data to spur commercial development, which is one of the goals of its ‘Digital Agenda’.
Siim Kallas, the European Commission vice president in charge of transport, discussed with the ministers ways to employ technology to make journey planning easier and to ensure that a 2008 EU action plan and a 2010 directive for ITS deployment is fulfilled no later than 2014. Kallas said, “To make the best use of all existing transport modes and infrastructure, we need to ensure the availability, accessibility and exchange of all relevant information, such as schedules, capacity and paths. Improving transport planning and information will allow new services, like route planners or smart reservation and payment, to spread for both passengers and freight, going beyond national borders and offering alternative transport modes.”
19 July 2012
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