Karri Rantasila and Matti Lankinen on FITSRUS, the project that facilitates smoother passenger traffic across the Finnish–Russian border.
The FITSRUS (Helsinki–St. Petersburg Smart Transport Corridor) project promotes smoother traffic flows, enhanced safety, environment friendliness, and improved services in smart transport corridor between Helsinki, the Finnish capital and St. Petersburg, Russia, covering all modes of transport.
In the first phase new services are introduced for passengers, car drivers and public transport. Development of the VEDIA Multi-Service concept, led by VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland and Vediafi Ltd, brings together newly opened mobile services that will result in smoother passenger traffic across the Finnish–Russian border.
Road traffic between Finland and Russia is very busy and has been constantly growing. The amount of crossings of the Finnish-Russian border grew 13 per cent in 2012 with a total number of crossings of 12 million. The road between Helsinki and St. Petersburg (E18) is a part of the pan-European network (TEN-T) and it is developed actively both in Finland and Russia. Key problems for border crossers have been identified, including roamingcharges and reliability of operation, poor accessibility of weather and driving condition information throughout the journey, and poor usability and availability of services in various languages. These issues arose in the survey conducted among border crossers, particularly Russians.
Cooperation between Russian and Finnish public and private stakeholders is also crucial for deploying services. Several key actors are involved to FITSRUS project from both sides including ministries, research institutions, major companies, and authorities. The roots of this cooperation were established between Finnish and Russian Governments in 2011 with Memorandum of Understanding. Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) was further appointed as a priority area of Transport Policy and Intelligent Transport System strategy and development in both countries. In addition, a General Plan for Smart Transport Corridor Development was accepted by Finnish and Russian Ministries of Transport in August 2012.
The first steps towards realizing the multi-service concept for ITS services in Finland had already been taken in R&D projects that kicked off in the spring of 2009. The main goal of these projects was to develop necessary functional specifications, business models, legal and institutional frameworks and architectures for key ITS services. Later on the work continued with actual development of the services, related proof-of-concepts and final Multi-Service architecture for mobility services in FITSRUS project.
The VEDIA Multi-Service is a key element of FITSRUS pilots, which were launched in Spring 2014. VEDIA Multi-Services are available to road and railway transport users, but will later also cover travel chains using other forms of transport. First to be introduced are automatic services for road weather and driving conditions, an automatic system issuing bulletins and warnings on traffic disruption, a real-time traffic and congestion information service, and a public transport information service.
For those travelling by train, the VEDIA services will become available in the fast Allegro trains travelling between Helsinki and St. Petersburg. The services will be implemented on the Finnish National Railway Company VR Group Ltd on-board wireless Internet, and are available to all train passengers via smart phones and mobile devices. VEDIA train services provide passengers with additional information on journey progress, train station bulletins, news headlines, weather information, and connecting traffic data at the destination. The VEDIA services will be produced on board the train, and are therefore unaffected by poor reception, particularly in the border zone. All services are delivered to end-users via multi-service platform based on HTML5 based VEDIA Multi-Service.
In the VEDIA Multi-Service, the problems associated with roamingwill be reduced by making the Internet connection and VEDIA services available free of charge on board Allegro trains and at the Vaalimaa border crossing station. The Russian Yandex-Money payment solution will enable unlimited data use with the Finnish teleoperator DNA Ltd’s prepaid subscription SIM (Subscriber Indentity Module) cards on VEDIA’s SIM card top-up service. There are also plans for developing a similar service for those travelling to Russia.
The solution is based on data exchange in which cooperation is being built between the authorities and enterprises in both countries. This will allow traffic and road condition information to be made available to consumers, for example, via Rajaliikenne.fi, which is the information service for road users and VEDIA applications. Other additions to the VEDIA Multi-Service will include an online translation service and public transport information that will introduce connecting traffic as part of the application. In addition to this, VEDIA’s mobile SMS payment system can be used, for example, to pay for single tickets in rail traffic within Helsinki.
There are many possibilities to expand multi-service concept from services piloted in the first phase. As current pilots are focused on cross-border passenger traffic mainly on rail and road, plan is to expand services to cover other transport modes and extended transport corridors, for example via E18 Road and towards Moscow direction in the east and to Western Finland. The concept can be also multiplied to other major international corridors.
A key for successful piloting is a seamless cooperation between different stakeholders and funding organizations in both countries. Also the work done in research projects cannot be over addressed as lessons learned and background work has provided a solid base for deployment of services. The project will be implemented in cooperation between public and private organizations in Finland and Russia. In Finland, the responsible party is the Ministry of Transport and Communications. Other parties also closely involved in service implementation include the Finnish Transport Agency and the Finnish Transport Safety Agency Trafi.
A service consortium has been established to implement the services, including about a dozen companies both in Finland and Russia. The implementing is managed by Vediafi Ltd and VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland. VEDIA Multi-Services are available at www.vedia.fi and will be introduced at the ITS Europe 2014 conference, to be held in Helsinki in June.
Karri Rantasila is Key Account Manager at VTT Technical Research of Finland
Matti Lankinen is Chairman of the Board at Vediafi Ltd
Web: www.vtt.fi, www.vedia.fi, www.rajaliikenne.fi, www.trafi.fi