This winter has not helped the image of public transportation. Trains and busses were often running late, adding to the many other nuisances of public transport such as crowded carriages, uncomfortable travelling or the inefficient exchange of vehicles. At least, this is the perception of millions of commuters in Europe. But not everywhere
In a hotel lobby in Madrid we meet Umberto Guida. The 46-year-old works in Brussels for the International Association of Public Transport. Today, he has come to the Spanish capital to show us one of the highlights of the European Bus of the Future (EBSF), a European research project he is responsible for.
It is 7am, just before the rush hour starts, and together we enter the nearby metro station. Our destination: Moncloa Interchange Station. On the 20 minute journey, Umberto tells us about the scope of this research project: to improve quality and attractiveness of bus services and test new solutions in seven different cities in Europe. For example, in Rouen, France, an innovative system on the bus make it easily be accessed by handicapped people, and in Madrid it has been integrated a new information system so that commuters can obtain real time travel information. This information includes traffic conditions and public transport services and can be best seen in Moncloa.
Moncloa is an interchange station where passengers can quickly change between two metro lines, 56 suburban and 20 urban bus lines. All terminals are clearly signed, and there are displays over every terminal which gives detail information about the next departure. In the arrival lounge of the suburban buses, there seem to arrive one bus every minute. Although the busses are full at this time of the day, the hall is never overcrowded. The commuters find quickly their way to their next mode of transport and nobody seems to wait very long.
Inside the main waiting hall a young woman expects us already. Her name is Laura Delgado Hernández and she gives us a tour of the Moncloa station. “We have five interchange stations”, she says, “each of them handle close to 200,000 passengers every day”. Delgado Hernández works for the planning department of CRTM, the public transport authority of Madrid and she has been involved in the EBSF project quite intensively. “Our aim was to give them as much information as possible about the ongoing journey. Is my bus running in time or are there any traffic disturbances I should be aware of?” CRTM seem to take the needs of their client very seriously – after all they have to take care for a lot of travelers. Approximately 3 million people are using the Madrid public transport system every day, so the new information system is an improvement of the service with a significant impact. “It’s a prime example of how one of the largest cities in Europe has managed to improve their public transport system quite considerably”, adds Umberto Guida, “and other cities can learn from this experience. Here EBSF has contributed to integrate the information coming from all the different transport modes is now integrated and provide them efficiently to passengers and drivers”
But EBSF is not only about providing real time information. In Rouen, France, engineers worked on a barrier-free access to the bus to facilitate the boarding for handicapped people. Philippe Rey from Irisbus IVECO quickly examines the system before he allows the prototype bus to take a test drive. When the bus arrives at a bus platform, a sensor adjusts the floor level of the vehicle. Then a pneumatic system releases a board underneath the opening doors. The board now bridges now the gap between the bus and the platform perfectly. A person in a wheelchair can now simply roll over the board and enter the bus with little effort. No additional helping hand is needed.
This system is going to be operational in Rouen, as soon as homologated. This bridging board could help not only handicapped people, but also persons with heavy luggage or travelling with push chairs.
The EBSF project is still ongoing and more results will be published in the coming months.
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