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The Traffic Control Center supports the Flemish government with information and advice on traffic mobility. The Traffic Control Center is a knowledge center that develops expertise in areas of strategic traffic modeling, gathering traffic-related data and creating mobility indicators. “At the same time, the Traffic Control Center’s job is to safeguard and increase the navigability of the major road network in Flanders,” says Jean- Pierre Vijverman, department head at the Traffic Control Center. This is done from the Traffic Control Centre (TCC) in Antwerp, where the staff of the Traffic Control Center monitor, direct and manage the traffic situation on Flemish main roads, e.g. through the use of dynamic traffic signals. Travelers are kept informed of current traffic conditions through targeted traffic information provided via the Internet, radio and RDS/TMC.
An eye on the traffic
The Technical Infrastructure team researches how to use technology to provide practical support for the Traffic Control Center. The team is responsible for managing the operator area, from where the Traffic Control Center controls the dynamic signaling. “This involves about 100 electronic panels on which we display suggested routes or alerts”, explains Sven Geerts, director-engineer of the Technical Infrastructure team. “We also have traffic lane signal panels.” These indicate the maximum speed above the different lanes in order to ensure safety at the back end of a traffic jam. Reliable traffic monitoring is indispensable to the Traffic Control Center for it to function properly. This is done through loops embedded in the road surface, which allow the Traffic Control Center to gather information about the density of the traffic, but this is also provided by some 700 traffic cameras. These allow control room staff to visually determine the nature of the problem is if there is an accident or a traffic jam.
About a year ago, the Traffic Control Center moved from its location at the Craeybeckxtunnel to a new building near Antwerp-Central station. “The original control room was built to support the major roads in the region of Antwerp”, points out Tom Sanders, an engineer at the Traffic Control Center. “As the Traffic Control Center’s field of action expanded – to include Brussels, Ghent and the E313 – it became clear that a new approach was needed.” In the new Traffic Control Center a flexible platform was needed that would allow, for example, faster and more efficient use of the camera footage, so that better support could be provided in response to the traffic situation. The Traffic Control Center awarded the government contract to Belgacom.
A future-proof platform
“The new work environment digitizes the images from the existing – analog – camera fleet”, Geerts explained. “In the control room, there are different islands which each have their own video wall, and each control a certain traffic area.” The new platform makes it possible to adjust the size of that traffic area and assign the right traffic footage. That lets the staff zoom in on a small area, for example if there has been an accident or, alternatively, to oversee a larger area, for example at night when traffic is thin. As a partner of the Traffic Control Center, Belgacom provided the crucial technical segment of the project. Consequently, Belgacom implemented the encoders to convert the analog traffic images into digital form, along with providing the servers to process them and the storage space to archive them. Belgacom also set up the control room with the different video walls and overview screens, and oversaw the Traffic Control Center’s move to its new location. “It certainly wasn’t an easy project”, Vijverman commented, “but for every new issue that arose, Belgacom managed to find a solution. We now have a single platform that allows us to better manage the functioning of the control room. At the same time, it is a future-proof solution, that will also support the research that we do based on the analysis of traffic images, among other things.”
Hilde Crevits, Flemish Minister for Mobility and Public Works
“The new Traffic Center is a symbol of modern traffic management. With operator rooms equipped with the latest technology and a new datacenter with the best security on all fronts, we have a strong basis for advanced traffic management. By investing not only in maintaining the roads but in associated modern infrastructure such as dynamic display panels, lane signage, rush-hour lanes, intelligent traffic lights and flow monitoring, we are paving the way for better mobility for everyone on the roads.”
The Traffic Control Center watches over the traffic on the ring roads and highways and conducts research on traffic flows. The Traffic Control Center falls under the authority of the Flemish Minister for Mobility and Public Works and has 60 employees.
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