Shorter days also means longer traffic jams
Autumn is bad news for smooth traffic because when the days are getting shorter, traffic jams grow longer. In the Flemish Traffic Centre, every morning, one sees with Argus’ eyes the traffic jam barometer rising. It is from their ultramodern control centre in Antwerp, that the traffic flows in the whole of Flanders are controlled every day.
Traffic jam season
“The months of October and November are the start of the ‘real’ traffic jam season”, says Peter Bruyninckx, spokesman for the Flemish Traffic Centre. Flanders has to deal with traffic jams almost all year round, due to the increasing traffic pressure, which means that at the slightest incident, everything crashes.
The cause in October is more general. “The holidays are over, commuting is business as usual again, freight transport is running at full speed, and higher education has started the new academic year. Moreover, the days are getting shorter and gloomier, with rain, gusts of wind, black ice and snow.”
Like the control tower of an airport
The Flemish Traffic Centre monitors the safety of the road users from its ultramodern control centre, five high on the Kievitplein in Antwerp. On flat screens against the wall, traffic jams are passing by.
In this cinema, where the same film is played day and night, every vehicle is counted, traffic flows are controlled and the length and duration of every traffic jam is measured with invisible detection loops en dynamic signalling.
“You can compare it a bit with the control tower of an airport. In fact, our operators are invisible co-pilots who drive with every driver in Flanders.”
1.496 traffic cameras
On the Flemish motorways there are 4.500 double detection loops that count each vehicle, measure its speed and tell which type of vehicle is driving over it. In addition, the centre has 1.496 traffic cameras. This allows them to assess a situation, together with the detachment of the federal road police, who are on duty day and night in the centre.
“A great help are our intelligent cameras that record and report any traffic disruption with a red alarm. This is the moment when our dynamic signalling above the road will reduce the maximum speed. It is a matter of making the situation safer.”
The large test signs are used to warn road users about traffic jams, to give detour advice and to communicate travel times. In addition, the centre permanently distributes traffic information via its website, Twitter and the GPS. This information is also shared with the media, for example, for the traffic bulletins on the radio.
“In short, as soon as you get into your car, we drive invisibly with you, right up to your destination.”