Advice system facilitates wet and dry traffic flow

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Optimal coordination for shipping and road traffic in North Holland, the Netherlands

The Netherlands has an extensive network of waterways which are intensively used for inland navigation and recreational boating. In many locations, the waterway network intersects the network of roadways. Sometimes wet and dry traffic interfere with each other. Drivers regularly stand still because a bridge is open, and ships often must wait even longer. Together with the province of North Holland, we have developed the Bridge Management System (BMS) for bridges and locks to improve the flow on the road as well as on the water. The provincial ambitions formed the foundation of the collaboration.

No traffic jams on the water

Transport over water is more sustainable than road transport. What’s more, the costs are lower and it provides for more room on the road. To illustrate this point: a container ship can transport dozens or even hundreds of containers, while a truck can carry a maximum of two, depending on the size. Especially because of the sustainability, governments are focusing on the stimulation of inland navigation. Approximately one third of the goods transport in the Netherlands currently occurs via water. However, more and more, ships have to deal with rush hour and operating schedules at bridges and locks, which results in less predictable and reliable travel times. To keep transport via water attractive, it is important that the shipping industry experiences an optimal flow without hindering the flow on the road too much.

Waiting times at bridges and locks

Where ships travel, bridges and locks are operated. There are dozens of such movable objects in the province of North Holland, and most of them are not opened at any random moment. For example, many bridges open for ships only once each half hour. These ships adjust their speed to the bridge opening times, yet they regularly must wait. The cars on the road have less of a wait, but the law of large numbers is at work here: if many cars must wait a few minutes, the “lost vehicle hours” quickly add up. Waiting five minutes becomes acute when an ambulance with an emergency is held up at the bridge or a police vehicle is on its way to an accident. Even for premium public transportation such as express buses and trams, waiting times are unacceptable.

Advice for bridge and lock operators

The current system is a co-creation of Technolution and the province of North Holland, where it operates under the name BMS 3.0 (Bridge Management System). It offers bridge

and lock operators support and advice in conducting their work. Among other information, the BMS indicates when ships will arrive at the bridge or lock and provides insight into the ship movements in the immediate vicinity. However, there are other systems that display this information. North Holland wanted BMS 3.0 to also provide insight into road traffic data, so that the operator can see the consequences a bridge opening has for emergency services, public transportation and other road traffic. This makes for a unique system.

When an emergency service vehicle such as a police car, fire brigade vehicle or ambulance approaches the bridge or lock with blue flashing lights, the system displays a ‘closure request’. The same thing happens for (premium) public transportation, such as the express bus to Schiphol Airport. The operator receives the advice to not open the bridge when the express bus is arriving, especially when the bus is delayed. This prevents travellers missing their flight because the bridge is open. The advice can also be affected by the road traffic centre – for example when there is peak traffic on the road. Conversely, a bridge opening can be announced by the traffic centre and road traffic can be rerouted dynamically.

Additional functionality

Bridge and lock operators register the passages and ships’ direction of travel in the system so that this information can also be seen by bridges and locks further along the route. They also record disruptions and enter inspections. In this way, what has occurred during the shift is visible. The bridge openings and disruptions are made public via the platform www.BlauweGolfVerbindend.nl (Blue Wave Connected), in the NDW (National Database for Road Traffic Data), for example. Furthermore, the system provides weather information and messages for the shipping industry.

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Blue wave

Thanks to this system, the road traffic can flow better. But how does it help the shipping sector? Thanks to the combination of information from various waterway information systems, the operator can anticipate the arrival of ships and make sure they have minimal waiting times. Further, the waterway manager can introduce water route plans (timetables for the shipping industry) so that ships have a ‘blue wave’. If ships maintain the advised speed, they can pass through multiple bridges in a row without waiting. The bridges then open when the ships arrive. Because of the link with Blue Wave Connected, skippers have insight into the current water route plans and they can ‘place’ themselves in a water route plan. If the ships travel in a convoy, the bridge can be opened less often and there are fewer interruptions for the road traffic.

Unique connection with traffic management on the road

BMS 3.0 takes the road traffic into account and it is the only product on the market that actively makes a connection between wet traffic and dry traffic. The information coming from the system is submitted to management systems for road traffic, such as MobiMaestro. This allows the road traffic to receive up-to-date information about bridge openings. BMS 3.0 is expected to result in a reduction of lost hours for ships and vehicles in North Holland. The effects will be evaluated by the province.

By now, North Holland has put the system into service. Together with the other regional waterway managers, the province is expanding the use further so that traffic managers and corridor managers (the traffic managers on the water) are optimally supported.

The product has been developed in collaboration with the Province of North Holland

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