Flanders too embraces iVRIs
Following the example of the Netherlands, Flanders too is investing in the iTLCs, the intelligent Traffic Light Controller . The pre-announcements of the tender are now online; the official invitation to tender is expected to be submitted in June. That can also mean good news for the Dutch Talking Traffic partners.
‘Making traffic safer, smoother and more sustainable for all road users.’ That is the aim of Mobilidata, a Flemish programme that shows strong similarities to Talking Traffic. Those similarities are no coincidence, Casper Moerbeek explains. Moerbeek was previously involved in Talking Traffic in the Netherlands on behalf of Dynniq and is now active as an independent consultant for Mobilidata at the Flemish Ministry of Public Works. Mobilidata is a collaboration between the partners of the Flemish government institutions AWV (Roads and Traffic Agency), MOW (Department of Mobility and Public Works), EWI (Department of Economy, Science and Innovation), VLAIO (Flemish Agency for Innovation and Entrepreneurship) and IMEC research centre (Inter-University Micro-Electronics Centre). The Flemish government wants to use the collaboration to improve traffic flow, increase road safety and reduce CO2 emissions.
On the street
That Mobilidata would follow the Dutch lead regarding traffic light technology innovations was not a given in 2019, Moerbeek says. ‘Last year, we carried out a thorough investigation through Mobilidata into the needs in the field of mobility among governments, umbrella organisations, market parties and road users. We then investigated which systems and solutions were already available. In Europe in particular, many trials are currently underway on the subject of smart infrastructure. The decisive factor for Mobilidata was that the Talking Traffic solutions were already introduced directly on the street, in real traffic. Most other innovations are test set-ups.’
As in the Netherlands, the need in Flanders in terms of innovative mobility solutions is high. That is another reason why Mobilidata wants to get on with it. And there is no reason not to, Moerbeek explains: ‘The political ambition in Flanders is there. People are willing and the level of knowledge is high.’ And so, being able to consult your northern neighbours is convenient in that case. Moerbeek: ‘We maintain very positive contacts with the experts from the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management, who assist us further, which is fantastic. Last year, at the invitation of our colleagues, we even had the opportunity to take a very valuable look at actual practice in the Dutch town of Deventer. At a detailed level, also in the area of laws and specific rules, there are of course differences between countries, but I think that about 95% of the Flemish situation corresponds to that of the Netherlands.’
Thanks in part to the Talking Traffic blueprint being already there, Mobilidata can act quickly, even in corona times. Moerbeek: ‘We are currently very busy with tightening up the specifications. We hope that the first part of the tender can start in June.’
The Flemish tender consists of two parts: the TLC announcement (for contractors for the supply, drafting, maintenance and modification of the iTLCs in Flanders) and the RIS and ITS app announcement (contractors for putting into service, running, hosting and modifying the RIS and ITS app part). The total size of both contracts combined is an estimated 24 million Euros. And if everything goes according to plan, Moerbeek expects that the first operational iTLCs to be seen in Flanders this year.
That sounds just as ambitious as it is realistic, Moerbeek thinks. ‘A lot of pioneering work has already been done in the Netherlands which we take advantage of and for which we are grateful. For example, we have already held various work sessions, partly online, with among others partners involved in Talking Traffic, including Be-Mobile, KPN, Dynniq, Siemens, Swarco, Sweco, RHDHV, Fortgang and Locatienet. This included synchronisation with the Dutch iTLCs, among other things. The expansion to Belgium is of course also interesting for Talking Traffic partners: they can participate in the tender and possibly broaden their scope and sales markets.’