Unique multimodal real-time information system between Germany and Denmark

Integrating public passenger transport and long-distance travel on a cross-border scale is a unique endeavour in the Baltic Sea Region that entails unprecedented arrangements and cooperation of different transport operators.

The projects INTERFACE and INTERFACE PLUS sought to improve the conditions for a smooth cross-border foot passenger connectivity through the integration of different modes – rail, bus and seaborne transport.

The joint efforts of transport operators, port authorities, urban planners and transport software developers from Germany, Denmark, Poland and Sweden translated into a series of interconnected services, products and processes.

Cross-border ticketing

Extensive cross-border efforts to design and roll out a multimodal cross-border product for foot passengers resulted in the concept of InterCombi ticket. It enables foot passenger journeys on a single ticket between Rostock, Germany, and Nykøbing, Denmark, using bus and ferry, operated by different carriers. Around 10.000 tickets were sold in the service development period. The corresponding website intercombi-ticket.de, available in English, Danish and German, provides timetable information and allows passengers to book their cross-border journey online up to 2 hours prior to departure. It allows for single journeys, return journeys on the same day or on different days.

Improving hinterland connections in Germany and Denmark

The ports of Gedser and Rostock are connected with their foot passenger hinterlands through public bus services.  Changes in the ferry timetable are particularly challenging as they entail disruption in the bus connections on both sides. The suspension of the express bus connection between the port of Rostock and the city centre that was established during the first INTERFACE generation brought a new challenge: the need for an economically sustainable solution. As part of the INTERFACE team, urban and transport planners from Rostock came up with an alternative that ensures both a durable and high-frequency bus  service between the port and its foot passenger hinterland: a new bus route connects now Rostock’s Central Station and other districts passing through the ferry port. In addition, a second route provides a shuttle service to a suburban railway station. Thanks to the increased frequency of the bus service, the smooth connectivity with the hinterland will remain unaffected by possible changes in the ferry timetables.

Real-time multi-modal passenger information on the Rostock-Denmark axis

Fetching, exchanging and integrating real-time data of different modes and from different operators and countries was among the most ambitious endeavours of INTERFACE PLUS.  As INTERFACE experts report, the initial situation was not very helpful. Neither the German public transport operators in Rostock nor the Danish regional bus operator in Guldborgsund had real-time passenger information systems. While the German national railway operator Deutsche Bahn had a real-time system in operation, there was no available solution for real-time data exchange. The Guldborgsund bus system didn’t have a link with the system of Dansker Statsbaner, the Danish national railway company. There was no practicable real-time solution for the terminal bus of the port of Rostock and no real-time passenger information system for the ferries. Common interfaces for real-time data exchange between the German and Danish timetable information systems were not existing. Finally, it was not possible to show information on connections in real-time on stationary passenger information displays. INTERFACE PLUS changed all this with unconventional solutions.

Data communication

INTERFACE PLUS solved the data exchange problem by means of a “data hub”. VDV 454, a standardised German data interface, was provided by transport software developers for the Danish timetable information service Rejseplanen, which enabled data exchange with Denmark. Fetched by the bus operator Arriva in Denmark, the real-time data is transferred to Germany for prediction analyses and subsequently to the Danish information system. The real-time data from the data hub is used for both timetable information and for the stationary displays.

First-ever in Europe real-time multi-modal timetable information system across borders

INTERFACE PLUS succeeded to assimilates the Danish port of Gedser into the German country-wide timetable information system as well as the German port of Rostock into Rejseplanen, the Danish timetable information system. While EU SPIRIT, a European timetable exchange association,  does not cover real-time data, INTERFACE succeeded to introduce the first-ever in Europe real-time multi-modal timetable information system across borders. A real-time preview of approximately 60 minutes is possible for the public transport vehicles in Germany, and of six hours for the Scandlines ferries.

Ferry Real-time Information System (FRIS)

As no technical solution was available globally in this field, INTERFACE PLUS devised a model without any interference in the on-board ferry equipment. This innovative solution combines the automatic identification system (AIS) data and analysis of the ferry route and its operating conditions. A number of factors including speed, distances, corridor, embarkation and disembarkation procedures, course, deviations and possible means for compensating delays are taken into account for an iterative forecast calculation that attains high levels of precision.

Real-time connection information on stationary displays  and monitors

As traditional methods would not allow to show information on connections or travel chains, INTERFACE PLUS came up with another novelty. A DFInet server already developed for the Rostock public transport operator was considerably extended to incorporate real-time functions, namely, connection with the data hub via standardised interfaces, shared displays, integration of external companies, information on connections on dynamic passenger information displays and browser-based monitor displays with information on connections.  

Electronic journey planning

Covering 15 destinations in the South Baltic area, the online information service portlink.eu was launched in July 2012 and is designed for foot passengers travelling between ferry terminals and inner cities. The site, which is also optimised for smartphones, incorporates interactive maps showing foot paths and distances between ferry terminals and public transport stations. It also allows for itinerary planning, including information about public transport operator, timetable, currency, ticket price, distance, duration, number of stops and accessibility for persons with reduced mobility.

The Public Transport Association Warnow and Polish public transport operator ZKM Gdynia have also launched electronic journey planners and information portals providing real-time information to assist passengers in planning their cross-border journeys and arrange connecting transport.

INTERFACE PLUS is integrating its multi-modal real-time information into well-established platforms such as www.bahn.de in Germany and www.rejseplanen.dk in Denmark. As a result, travellers can gain  access to multi-modal information that will allow them to plan domestic and cross-border journeys.