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Finnish digital initiative to drive EU digital-based passenger services

Finnish-driven transport-as-a-service concept gets EU-wide appeal as a way of increasing customer satisfaction and reducing fuel consumption

The European Union (EU) is to accelerate policy development around a Digital Passenger Transport Services (DPTS) initiative, launched under Finland’s six-month EU presidency.

DPTS champions a set of key proposals that promote digital-based passenger services across the entire EU, including access to data, network security and protecting personal information. 

A framework for the DPTS was outlined at discussions between EU transport ministers held in Brussels in December. The meeting, which was chaired by Finland’s then transport and communications minister Sanna Marin, reinforced the importance of promoting digital transport services as climate-friendly, socially responsible and economically sustainable pillar solutions within an evolving EU data economy.

The Brussels meeting would prove to be Marin’s final time to chair a high-profile session of EU transport officials as a minister. The Finnish Centre Party’s leader of 34 years became the world’s youngest prime minister.

Extensive cooperation is fundamental to achieving the adoption of common digital-based transport services and standards among EU countries, said Maaria Mäntyniemi, a senior adviser to Finland’s ministry of transport and communications (MTC).

“The targets Finland proposed are realistic. We believe that developing smart travel solutions for transport passengers that are climate-friendly, socially responsible and economically sustainable are well within the EU’s reach,” Mäntyniemi said.

The launch of pan-European smart rail ticketing (SRT) forms an integral part of Finland’s vision for the development of the DPTS going forward. The goal is to use digitalisation to provide a “through-ticketing” facility for cross-border rail trips made within the EU.

At present, the “through-ticketing” option is not widely available to rail passengers. This is particularly the case when passengers travelling between EU member states need to change train operator and are automatically required to purchase multiple tickets using multiple on- or off-line sales points.

The STR proposal advanced by Finland is largely based on the country’s own mobility-as-a-service (MaaS) model. The Finnish Transport Services Legislation, the MaaS-related segments of which are set to be fully implemented this year, will result in the integration of all modes of passenger transportation in Finland by 2021. In response, transport operators have already begun to roll out new user-oriented digitalised passenger services. 

The technology-bedrock for Finland’s MaaS-based system envisages a steady evolution in the array of digital-services offered to transport users. Finland is looking to integrate new radio systems based on 5G technology that can allow railways to make a leapfrog evolution in the areas of critical application and connectivity.

On a broader scale, the evolution of MaaS will be intrinsically bound with the EU’s transition towards a Single European Transport Area (SETA) and the development of an intelligent transport system (ITS) infrastructure. This will require a data layer that interlinks all elements in the transport network.

The building-up of this data layer will entail that EU member states establish a network of national access points (NAPs) to facilitate ease of data exchange and the re-use of transport related data.

The primary objective behind the MaaS, SETA and ITS initiatives is to develop an EU-wide interoperable travel and traffic information services platform that can be delivered to users. The building up of the data layer will involve the creation of open and common standards and interfaces as well as an efficient, secure data ecosystem.

Reshaping European transport

The Finnish DPTS initiative is also welded directly to the EU’s plan to employ digitisation to reshape European transport under the umbrella of the Digital Single Market (DSM).

The DPTS-model is expected to become one of the primary platform areas to provide transport services users with greater mobility and data offerings in the EU. The DSM project aims to deepen integration of digitisation to develop more efficient passenger services across EU transport systems.

Moreover, EU planners envisage that the digitisation of Europe’s core transport systems, including those serving passenger and freight services, will create important linked business opportunities for both private and public sector organisations to create new services by exploiting digital technologies.

Finland, during its presidency, worked with the Digital Transport and Logistics Forum (DTLF) to expand the DPTS’s profile and passenger-focused initiatives. The DTLF functions as a collaborative platform where EU member states, public entities and other organisations coordinate policy and technical recommendations in and logistics digitalisation across all modes of transport.

The DTLF has embraced the Finnish model for a twin-track approach to the digitalisation of transport that includes developing passenger services within the scope of ambition of the DPTS, while also supporting the implementation of a parallel initiative impacting freight and logistics operators.

Among the DTLF’s recommendations is a proposal to establish digital corridor information systems to enable data sharing between all types of supply chain stakeholders through connecting existing cross-border IT platforms and services. The European Commission is currently considering proposals to support the more systematic use and acceptance of e-documents, along with the harmonised exchange of information and data in the freight logistics chain.

The development of EU-wide smart and secure travel systems, in collaboration with industry, remains an area of significant importance for Finland and Europe, said Hanna Kosonen, Finland’s science and culture minister.

“There is a need to use our technology and information resources more efficiently in the development of services in the private and public sectors. It is also crucial, in this environment, to assure EU citizens that their fundamental rights as users of passenger transport will be safeguarded in a developing data economy,” Kosonen said.

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