Since 1992 the companies of the Karlsruher Verkehrsverbund (KVV), the Karlsruhe-based regional Transport and Tariff Association, rely on INIT’s telematics systems. Thus, they not only control the traffic situation in the city of Karlsruhe, but also provide their customers with real-time passenger information. In order to be able to manage operations efficiently outside city borders too, the local public transport providers Verkehrsbetriebe Karlsruhe (VBK) and Albtal-Verkehrs-Gesellschaft (AVG) have contracted INIT – Karlsruhe-based leading supplier of telematics and fare collection systems – to upgrade their telematics system. Central to this modernization is the timely and automatic data provision of the vehicles, as well as the flawless location tracking and control of all vehicles across the region. In this way, passengers can be informed even more reliably about the arrival times of buses and trams, as well as of interruptions of services, both at stops and via the Internet.
Not only are telematics systems from Karlsruhe internationally sought after, the Karlsruhe-based public transport provider VBK also achieved worldwide fame with its tram train concept which became known as the “Karlsruhe model”. The model is as simple as it is impressive: the introduction of dual-mode light-rail vehicles means that the trams can use the heavy-rail tracks in the surrounding metropolitan area as well. This enabled the VBK and the AVG to extend their services far into the surrounding Karlsruhe area and the neighbouring regions. The success of this concept is based on the fact that passengers can reach Karlsruhe’s inner city without having to change trains. This convenient way of travelling was, and still is, the major reason for the monumental success and the ongoing extension of the system.
In the meantime, the trackage of the Karlsruhe tram train now exceeds 500 km and connects even the small town of Eutingen im Gäu 100 km from Karlsruhe in the southern Black Forest with Karlsruhe’s public transport system. The longest route, however, is the three-hour journey from Achern near Strasbourg to Öhringen east of Heilbronn.
Still, the extension of the service area also poses some special challenges, because the PMR system currently only covers Karlsruhe and not the surrounding area. This means, as far as the Intermodal Transport Control System (ITCS) is concerned regional light-rail trains disappear into “the dark”, i.e. they are positioned according to schedule, and this causes problems with the accuracy of real-time passenger information. The light-rail vehicles only reappear, i.e. can be reached via data radio and are visible to the ITCS and passenger information system, when they leave the railway system and rejoin the inner-city tram network.
An intelligent communication concept
At the heart of the current system update is therefore the implementation of an intelligent communication concept. Data radio within the Karlsruhe city area will still be based on the existing PMR system. When the vehicles leave the radio coverage in the future they will keep in touch with the control centre via UMTS (or GPRS as fallback level). Thus staff at the Karlsruhe control centre can keep track of all vehicles across the region and faster react to any interruptions of services. Since the current positions of the vehicles will then be available in the system, the dynamic passenger information system MOBILE-STOPinfo will be able to provide reliable forecasts of the actual departure times at all stops. This will allow to expand the provision of real-time information to cover the region. It is planned to double the number of passenger information signs.
Due to the size of the KVV’s service area vehicles do not regularly return to their depots but are distributed across a number of parking facilities. Therefore, a flexible solution had to be found for the fully automated provision and collection of data. The best technological and cost-effective solution is to use the planned UMTS/GPRS connection for the upload of data and in return the download of operational data for further processing. Thus, the new COPILOTpc vehicle IT platform will handle the data management for some third-party systems as well.
Upgrading central control and vehicles
While the control of the operational status is currently managed from two control centres; the new Intermodal Transport Control System MOBILE-ITCS will make it possible to manage the entire service from the new depot which is currently under construction, thus centralizing and optimizing the management of services. The upgrade also includes the functional extension, as well as the successive fitting of the 70 buses and 260 trams and light-rail vehicles with the latest generation of on-board computers, the COPILOTpc. Not only does this new vehicle IT platform allow the handling of all the demanding tasks in the Regio-ITCS, it also provides comfortable information and support for the drivers via the TOUCHit touchscreen-controlled driver terminal.