THE TECHNOLOGICAL ADVANCES OF THE DIGITAL ENVIRONMENT HAVE CONTRIBUTED GREAT ADVANTAGES TO ACHIEVE A TRANSPORTATION NETWORK THAT IS AS UNIFIED AND EFFICIENT AS POSSIBLE.
The major cities of the world are committed to implementing models of “smart transportation” to achieve a combination of modern networks that are comfortable and safe for the user.
The aim of the introduction of new technologies and the arrival of the digital era is to improve the end-user experience of multimodal transport. The commitment to R&D is shifting towards automated rail transport in which improvements are achieved in aspects such as efficiency, effectiveness and safety. In the field of mobility, it translates into providing passengers with uninterrupted service, as made-to-measure and comfortable as possible.
Within this transformation, there are key elements such as mobile devices, which become a centre of communication and interaction in real time. Its usage is increasing on the part of the passenger. In fact, 76.05% of on-line reservations for train and bus tickets for medium and long-distance journeys that were made in the year 2018 were booked via smartphones.
Mobility understood as service (MaaS) guides this change in which we wish to offer customised solutions based on individual needs to ensure easy access to the most appropriate mode of transport for each passenger. Another substantial change that is included in this concept is the increase in the use of shared travel services, which also opens a stage to new business models. The aim is to offer customers combined mobility packages as a viable alternative to car ownership.
To this end, the railway industry works on making the market available constant advances in rolling stock (intelligent digital train), energy efficiency (zero emissions), optimised infrastructures (stations and intermodal terminals), safety, etc.
Technological advances also reach the design of stations where several means of transport converge. The construction information modelling (BIM) assumes the evolution of the traditional civil engineering design systems based on the plan. The BIM methodology will provide leverage to the development of innovative infrastructures.
Now aspects such as geometric (3D), time (4D), cost (5D), environmental (6D) and maintenance information have a bearing. BIM also entails the implementation of the project and extends to throughout the life cycle of the intermodal building, which allows for the optimal management of the facilities and a considerable reduction in operating costs. The merger between technology and architecture will also bring great advantages for the user, who will be able to obtain, for example, complete on-site information in an innovative way: virtual assistance and tour on interactive floors, sensitive data panels, dynamic signalling, Wi-Fi, etc. Its passage through the multimodal transport terminals will thus be easier, more streamlined and comfortable.
The arrival of the digital age is aimed at improving the user’s final experience
The intermodal stations (buses, subway, commuter trains) are moving towards a new model where technology plays a key role. These are smart centres that apply the latest developments in the Internet of Things (IoT), the Cloud and Big Data that allow users to enjoy a wide range of services in real time while making their trip a unique experience.
This is a new model that provides direct monitoring and assistance through mobile devices for installations and assets (lifts, cameras, ticketing, check-in, escalators, etc.) and a wide range of services. In these areas of exchange, advanced communications infrastructures such as the 4G and 5G networks are implemented, as well as facilitating access to the Wi-Fi network for passengers. These advances allow for the improvement of the operational, economic and sustainable performance of urban mobility networks.
The examination of large volumes of data (Big Data) improves the decision making in the planning of operations and results in greater security and efficiency. Adaptation to this new technological evolution makes it possible for these terminals to be connected with other transport systems and with the different urban services; all this as part of the concept of “Smart City”.
Digitised environments and terminals
The traditional transport terminals give way, thanks to new technologies, to digitised infrastructures, with movement, where facilities and passengers can be interconnected through networks and sensors. We are shifting towards a new era where automation brings new services that will improve intermodal travel. There are already innovative systems for managing the environment in stations, such as the city of Toulouse (France).
Through centralised sensors, it adapts the lighting levels, ventilation or the displays of data of the environment taking into account the time of day or passenger flow In other occasions, as in the Suseo station of the operator Korail (Korea), connection times have been improved notably through the optimisation of signalling and access to the facilities.
Single ticket: Integrate all means
The diversity of tickets that a passenger must use on several networks in a single journey can have a dissuasive effect on the use of public systems over the private car. Hence, numerous cities such as Barcelona, Valencia, Lisbon, Rome, Brussels, amongst others, have already implemented the single ticket system, a modern alternative that favours intermodality. The technology applied in these cases makes the route more comfortable for the user and avoids duplications in the network.
Furthermore, the industry of the sector has made available to the market a high range of integral solutions for the integral fare management of multimodal transport.
Technological integration in public intermodal transport also translates into advances such as the multiple services provided in the different stops along the route. In them, the new options (monitors, touch screens and interactive with services such as Google Outside) are highly extensive: information on waiting times in real time, weather, alternatives to reach ones destination, tourist routes and cultural programmes and shopping areas in the city, free Internet access, etc. Examples are found in London, Paris or Madrid, amongst many other cities.
This is complemented by the expansion of on-site proposals for the passenger such as the provision of spaces for the sale of groceries, free libraries and connections for charging electronic devices such as tablets or smartphones.
Contactless technology as a means of payment
The way of acquiring the ticket also tends to be digital. Innovative means of payment are promoted, such as tactile technology. With it you can make the payment inside the vehicles or directly in the ticketing point.
This eliminates the need to previously purchase tickets, cards, transportation tickets or having to go to ticket offices or vending machines.
On an intermodal trip it allows for faster and simpler access, minimises the costs of issuing tickets for the operator, facilitates the identification of the user when dealing with nominal cards.
It also allows us to obtain data such as recurrence, behaviour, origin and carrying out studies on users.
Progress involving vehicle instrumentation and GPS self-navigation are also highly noteworthy. The industry is developing autonomous vehicles that will be a part of urban intermodality in the future. In the railway field, these advances reach spheres such as automatic driving systems.
The technological solution used, “Automatic Train Operation” (ATO), is being installed in urban trains endowed with a CTBC platform (Control of Communications-Based Trains).
In a network where there is intense traffic, as in large cities, having these advances helps to optimise management by reducing the interval between trains and shortening journey times.
Security: Video surveillance
The increase in the number of passengers and the greater complexity of transport terminals, such as large exchanges, make it necessary to have a central management system as advanced as possible that protects users from criminal activities or prevents behavioural patterns that disturb public order. In these platforms key data is loaded, as well as the information of global positioning systems “Global Positioning System” (GPS) and alarms.
The new systems of video surveillance and analysis, access control allow to identify the faces of people with greater clarity.
The communication between the platform and the devices lies, increasingly, in 3G and 4G wireless networks.
The single recognition system based on the passenger’s traits (fingerprints, retina, facial patterns, voice, etc.) is proving highly useful in train stations, buses, airports and, in general, in places where there is a constant traffic of people, it allows for the optimisation of authentication processes in on-line payment processes to protect operations, etc. These advances encourage the use of transport journeys where more than one means of transport must be used. Applications that reveal routes, schedules or incidents. Cities such as Madrid, Barcelona, London, Moscow, New York, Sao Paulo or Tokyo have apps that include all the networks that are available in the city, and allow you to know schedules, calculate routes,
public and the collaborative economy with new concepts such as crowd-parking “Car as a Service” or “Carsharing” that join the chain of options that complement urban mobility networks.
Mobile applications and collaborative economy
Passengers’ connectivity is becoming more functional on urban rental points for bicycles, services for motorcycles and car sharing, etc.
Another substantial change is the tendency to unify in a single app, in real time and in the same space, all the relevant information that makes it unnecessary to visit several websites to make queries. It also allows for the visualisation of schematic and geographic maps of each network and the twitter accounts of the operators. Also included is a synchronisation service with the cloud that allows the user to not lose the information if they switch devices.
Integrated control centres
The management of railway operations in urban systems has advanced in reliability thanks to the centralised control centres (CTC). The integration of the control systems contributes to the optimisation of the operation of the networks and the maintenance of the infrastructure.
Traffic control is unified from a single station from where the signals and diversions are monitored through a remote connection using computerised means. The information is displayed on screens showing the trains in circulation and the routes available.
The technological developments make scheduling and regulation of circulation more secure and user-friendly, as well as the management of work, incidents and the supervision of associated facilities.
Digital trains: a new travel concept
Digitisation has also reached the highest rolling stock and other vehicles such as buses. Some trains already offer a trip 100% connected to users, with Wi-Fi and online communication. Different apps provide information about where the route is, places it passes through augmented reality or activities of interest at the destination. Furthermore, the users can connect with management centre and communication via their phone. Some more cutting-edge developments focus on the development of new modular platforms that can even operate on the painted lines of the asphalt, since they are equipped with sensors that allow them to follow the white lines on the streets.
Modular aircraft to connect with the stations
More in the long-term, in Switzerland, researchers work on the well-known “Clip Air”. These are modular, dockable airplanes designed for passengers to disembark on the platform of the train station of their destination without having to enter the airport.