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Key urban transport project delivers results

The 'SPUTNIC' project consortium held its final conference in Brussels in July 2009. Aimed at improving European public transport, SPUTNIC carried out a comprehensive study of the state of the art in urban mobility, including management, customer relations and operational structures.

European metro system © Peter Gutierrez
Keeping cities moving
© Peter Gutierrez

"Transport is the basis for functioning of the internal market, including the free movement of people and goods," said Franz Söldner, Deputy Head of Unit at the European Commission's Transport and Energy Directorate-General. "But it is also closely linked to many important EU policies such as growth and employment, social cohesion, energy, environment and sustainable development."

Outlining current and planned EU transport policies, Söldner cited urban transport specifically as an integral part of the European transport system. "Urban areas represent the origin and the destination of our main transport flows," he said, "and much of today's transport-related legislation impacts directly on urban mobility."

SPUTNIC addresses key challenges

Funded by the European Commission under the Sixth Research Framework Programme, SPUTNIC (Strategies for Public Transport in Cities) looked at challenges faced by local and regional public transport systems in transition. These challenges include rising competition, changing institutional frameworks and increasingly scarce financial resources.

To help make public transport systems more attractive and efficient, SPUTNIC provided support to stakeholders in anticipating and preparing for these and other emerging challenges. And it has delivered an overview of state-of-the-art knowledge and research, and specific guidelines and practical tools.

Project activities fell into four priority areas, each supported by a working group of public transport professionals:

  • Market organisation– This working group focused on effective co-operation of public transport actors, tariff optimisation and integration, innovative financing, incentive contracts and monitoring systems which improve system quality and reduce costs.
  • Customer relations– This group focused on the interrelations between the providers and customers with attention to mobility data and travel patterns, the image of public transport, marketing strategies and customer-relations management, and integration of monitoring results in operations and services.
  • Corporate management– This group analysed organisational and management issues, including human resource development and management, performance indicators and knowledge management, business reorganisation to improve efficiency, and optimising costs.
  • Equipment and operations– The efforts of this group were focused on operational and technical matters, including upgrading and modernisation of infrastructure, second-hand rolling stock, safety issues, transfer of innovative technologies and operational and fleet management.

Recommending change

At the Final Conference in Brussels, leaders of the four SPUTNIC priority areas presented project outcomes from a theoretical point of view, and through real-life examples from around Europe. Overall conclusions came from project coordinator Sebastian Emig of UITP.

SPUTNIC partners in Germany © SPUTNIC
SPUTNIC comes to Europe

According to SPUTNIC findings, improving the cost effectiveness of public system, in terms of investment and operation, must be a key priority. "We also need to work on increasing the attractiveness of PT system for existing passengers and potential new customers," said Emig. "And more integrated and seamless multimodal systems must be established."

Emig called for carefully planned and prioritised infrastructure, to optimise transport chains and the overall transport network, with consideration of long-term management, maintenance, upgrading and repair of both vehicles and infrastructure. "Finally," he said, "we need to work harder to raise public awareness and to increase our commitment to public transport."

Other highlights

UITP Secretary General Hans Rat handed over to Franz Söldner the 'SPUTNIC Charter for a better Public Transport', which was signed online by more than 130 people. Participants at the meeting also received a draft of the Final Report 'Political and Research Recommendations'.