ERTICO examines ITS across Europe 

By Ian Bearder

You may not know this but the Austrian Rail operator ÖBB provide one of the most useful travel websites in Europe. 

Known as SCOTTY this is an online route planner that lets you plan a train journey anywhere in Europe. Available in English the site is clear and easy to use and even when it can’t find you a train – it provides information about local busses. 

ÖBB’s SCOTTY – Austria’s gift to European travellers

I discovered the site about five years ago and fell in love with it both as a service and as a concept.   At the time I was travelling a lot in Europe and it provided the perfect solution to the endlessly frustrating process of trying to arrange trips using out-dated timetables or foreign language websites.  Since discovering SCOTTY I have planned hundreds of trips around Europe and this includes journeys in otherwise challenging places like Ukraine and Turkey.   

After joining ERTICO last year I learned that SCOTTY actually has brothers and sisters. In fact he comes from a family of systems known as ‘multimodal travel planners’. I also discovered that there are many people working hard to bring the simplicity and benefits of such systems to the masses.  This is great news and there are many exciting developments underway in this area but for me it all started in Austria.  

For this reason I was delighted to be able to interview Martin Russ Managing Director of AustriaTech and General Secretary of ITS Austria.  He explained the history of ITS in Austria and why his country was able to become an early pioneer in this area.

Martin Russ  Martin Russ Managing Director of AustriaTech and General Secretary of ITS Austria

“ITS Austria was originally established in 2004 but the network was not as tight as it is today. Obviously the most visible activity was to bring the ITS World Congress to Austria together with the Ministry of Transport Innovation and Technology. During the preparation of the Congress the network strengthened its cooperation which finally led to a new structure and a new form of strategic alliance. Our approach was to build a strong network of national mobility platforms together with national and regional infrastructure operators and mobility providers. This explains already our focus which is to force multimodal mobility. So it is all about changing minds and connecting modes.”

Were there any specific factors playing a major role in defining ITS in Austria?

“As Austria is a small country ITS got on the agenda very early: it was more promising to invest in intelligent systems than to build streets. Already in 2004 ITS Austria developed a telematic framework which became a European benchmark. Based on this first approach – and in close cooperation with the platform – the Ministry of Transport published Austria’s national ITS Action Plan in 2011. It includes first measures to be taken to get improved mobility services – in terms of safety efficiency and sustainability. Specific working groups foster the deployment of key services. A main task for ITS Austria is to bring ITS to the political agenda and represent a common position of the Austrian stakeholders. Our focus is national and regional deployment – of course based on European standards and specifications. To be honest solutions on a European basis are too complex and inhomogeneous to be realised in a short term. As we need solutions immediately to meet today’s challenges in mobility we pursue a national and regional approach. We are in the lucky position that our Ministry is responsible for transport as well as innovation which makes the deployment process much easier. AustriaTech as the national mobility agency supports this process vitally.”

You hosted the World ITS Congress in Vienna last year. Was this an enjoyable experience? And what were the main highlights for ITS Austria?

“First of all we want to thank everybody for this great experience. The participation of all the representatives of politics economy and research made this congress a huge success for our common cause. The World Congress was a great possibility to present the Austrian approach on ITS too. We hope that we were able to convey to the community our approach to involve infrastructure operators as well as the mobility providers the industry and the political actors. To mention the most important achievements: the Geographic Information System GIP the Austria-wide Traffic Information System VAO and the Testfeld Telematik. Infrastructure operators as well as Austria’s industry – with Kapsch Siemens Swarco and Efkon leading the way – have strong competences to meet the challenges of the global markets.”

If you could invent one new ITS gadget or system next week what would it be? 

“I would invent a seamless and personal mobility service. Let’s call it mode connector. It would have features which would meet my daily mobility needs in terms of convenience and seamlessness. Only mention two things: with the mode connector I could shake my mobile phone in order to ask the bus driver to wait for me. It provides green wave when I go by bike. If you have a look at you can see that we already have all these services in Austria. The challenge now is to connect them in an intelligent way.”

Will you attend the European ITS Congress in Dublin in June?

“Of course we will. It’s our duty to be where the biggest ITS community meets. Under the umbrella brand of ITS Austria we will be present with selected partners representing the key players in Austria and the cooperation between the stakeholders. Our aim is to show the main topics of the transport policy and the strong competences of ITS Austria and its partners.”

I hope many of you will also join us and if you need to book a train for your journey you know where to look! 

The interview is the first in a series of articles that explore the ITS industry in different European countries. 



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Original Publication Date: Tue 23 Apr 2013