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Improving public understanding of EU transport research

For three days in Paris, visitors to the ‘European City of Science’ exhibition were able to learn about the work of research scientists around Europe. Among the highlights was the work of five groundbreaking EU-funded road transport research projects, aimed at making life on Europe’s roads easier and safer.

Janez Potočnik speaking at ‘European City of Science’ © FEHRL
Janez Potočnik at ‘European City of Science’

‘CERTAIN’, ‘HEAVYROUTE’, ‘ARCHES’, ‘SPENS’ and ‘TYROSAFE’ were presented at the ‘European City of Science’ exhibition by the Forum of European National Highway Research Laboratories (FEHRL), as part of the organisation’s outreach programme to communicate how European research is improving road transport.

About 42 600 people visited the exhibition, held at Paris' Grand Palais from 14-16 November 2008. Research organisations, universities, businesses and other associations demonstrated how their scientific innovations would affect the lives of everyday citizens as well as businesses.

In an opening speech, Janez Potočnik, the European Commissioner responsible for Science and Research, emphasised the integral role of science in society. “New knowledge helps create innovation and it is only innovation that can create new jobs and new wealth,” he said.

CERTAIN – a platform for coordinated research

‘Central European research in transport infrastructure’ (CERTAIN) is a coordination action directed at helping integrate the EU New Member States (NMS) and other Central and Eastern European countries into the EU’s established research and development community.

The project provides a platform for coordinated work and the efficient dissemination of results of ongoing EC research projects on road infrastructure, particularly those involving NMSs. For example, CERTAIN helps coordinate the work of SPENS and ARCHES, both of which are directed at improving the quality of roads in the NMSs.

SPENS – focus on highway maintainence

The objective of the ‘Sustainable pavements for European New Member States’ (SPENS) project is to develop appropriate tools and procedures for the rapid and cost-effective rehabilitation and maintenance of roads in the new Member States.

Research involves ensuring that materials and technologies for road pavement construction and rehabilitation will work in a typical climate, have an acceptable environmental impact, are easy to incorporate with existing practices, and are cost effective and easy to maintain.

ARCHES – raising standards across new Member States

Meanwhile, researchers in the ‘Assessment and rehabilitation of Central European highway structures’ (ARCHES) project are developing ways to raise the standards of the highway structures in NMSs and Central and Eastern European countries to the level needed for full EU economic integration.

ARCHES is developing tools, techniques and procedures to prevent corrosion and avoid unnecessary repairs and replacement of highway structures. In addition, the project is developing longer lasting rehabilitation techniques to repair and strengthen existing sub-standard and unsafe bridges in the targeted countries.

HEAVYROUTE – better route guidance systems for trucks

The ‘Intelligent route guidance for heavy vehicles’ (HEAVYROUTE) project is developing an advanced route guidance system for heavy goods vehicles (HGVs). Project partners are working to provide data collection and interpretation processes and technologies that will link truck drivers to Europe’s electronic road infrastructure mapping systems. A new guidance system will take into account information about road users, and operating and environmental costs, among other factors.

Drivers and operators will be able to map the safest and the most cost effective routes for road freight throughout Europe, helping them boost their efficiency, profitably and safety, and reducing congestion.

TYROSAFE – roads, tyres and green driving

Coordination action TYROSAFE focuses on the interaction between road surfaces and tyres. Optimisation of this interaction means increased safety for drivers and a reduction of CO 2 output and noise emissions throughout Europe.

CERTAIN, HEAVYROUTE, ARCHES and SPENS all received funding through the EU’s Sixth Framework Programme (FP6), while TYROSAFE is being supported through FP7.

Serving citizens and industry

The ‘European City of Science’ exhibition © FEHRL
Major public exhibition

The need for more rapid innovation is certainly the driving force behind the work of FEHRL. The organisation was formed in 1989 to provide a coordinated structure for the interests of the thirty national research and technical centres of the EU Member States, the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) and the rest of Europe.

FEHRL road engineering research topics include safety, materials, environmental issues, telematics and economic evaluation. Research capacity is provided by the national institutes.

The European City of Science exhibition was organised by the French Ministry for Higher Education and Research to celebrate the French Presidency of the European Union in 2008.

The theme of the public exhibition was ‘Science in the service of Society’. About 80 projects from around Europe were selected from among 250 applicants for the showcase event.