Computers, Corridors and Cargo: Improving Sustainability through Planning Support Systems
Woude, M. van der
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From 1990 and onwards, the European union started a project in connecting the different states in a new way. This led to the creation of the Trans-European Networks, with one of these networks dedicated to a transport network with corridors. These Trans-European corridors consist of multimodal international networks with a dedicated corridor management team to enhance the corridors. One of the goals of the European Union in these corridors is the enhancement of sustainability; in 2050 a decrease of 60% of all emission by the freight transport on the corridor in relation to the levels from1990. The foremost actions to achieve these goals are the actions promoting both continuous flow and multimodal transport on the corridors. In this research the planning context of these freight transport corridors were divided in four layers: the layer of trade, the layer of economics, the layer of traffic management and the layer of network management. There is also a fifth vertical layer crossing the four horizontal layers. This is the layer of information flow and ICT use. This research is focussed on the enhancement of sustainability on the freight transport corridors in regard to the enhancement of the fifth layer of this model. As the scope of the research is to view this ‘wicked problem’ through the lens of transport planning, the research views the use of ICT systems in these four layers of the model from a planning support system perspective. Planning support systems is a broad term in research as it encompasses the ICT systems used by planners in the aiding of their daily activities. Another characteristic of planning support systems is the broad nature of the systems as they include functionalities of data gathering, analysis, design functions and other functions to support planners in their tasks. The planning support systems started to emerge from the 1980’s onwards but while the systems themselves grew in capabilities and complexness; the use seemed to stagnate. This mismatch in the use of planning support systems can be explained trough the division in the knowledge, communication and context gap. By using the method of semi-guided interviews with planning professionals the use of ICT systems on the four layers was examined, as well as current trends in context of sustainability in the case study and insight in the collaboration of these planners. The used case study is that of the TEN-T Rhine Alpine corridor, connecting the region of Rotterdam via the Ruhr Area in Germany to the city of Genova in Italy. The case study has its focus on the Dutch part of this corridor. The current sustainability trends were summarized as bottlenecks in the enhancement of the corridor. This context can be interpreted as the ‘context’ part in the context gap of the planning support systems for planners from the case study. The knowledge gap was researched using topics about the personal experience and use of planning support systems for their daily activities. The communication gap was finally researched by analysing the communication in the corridor management. The knowledge gap in the mismatch of planning support systems seems to be present as most respondents note to have slight experience in the use of planning support systems, on a rudimentary level. The outsourcing of more difficult use of planning support systems is also common but increases risks of misinterpretation or misuse of the outcomes. The communication gap is also said to be present in this sector because the stark and competitive nature of the sector itself. There are several issues regarding the sharing of data and the collaboration in certain aspects of the daily activities on the corridor. On the planning level this is enhanced due to the stark modal division in governmental parties. The context gap is present in a less pronounced manner. There are multiple ICT packages made for planners in a transport network planning perspective. These packages are however often only made for a single or a small amount of purposes. Broad and interconnected planning support systems assisting planners and other stakeholders in most or all aspects of their daily activities are still slim. This is again due to the reserved and competitive nature of the long-term freight transport sector. There are several bottlenecks identified in multiple categories. The usage of multimodal transport is often seen as an efficient method of enhancing sustainability on the corridor. While there is energy and effort on the promotion of multimodal transport, the respondents note that this is still very slim. This, as well as several bottlenecks on the corridor is very dependent on the collaboration of stakeholders and the sharing of data. It can thus be concluded that enhancements on the fifth layer of information and ICT in the model translates to eventual enhancements in the sustainability of the corridor.