In Finland, there are approximately 78,168 kms of state owned roads and 26,000 municipal streets. The main road network is 13,268 kms. With up to seven months of winter weather when daily average temperature could stay constantly below 0 C degree and go down to -40 C degree, it is an enormous challenge to keep the roads in driving condition. Keeping the roads operational at all time has a great importance to the Finnish industry and trade. Besides extreme weather conditions, Finland has a high level of utilisation of information technology and especially mobile solutions and is thus a perfect laboratory for developing road maintenance solutions.
The Finnish Road Enterprise (http://www.tieliikelaitos.fi/english) is the market leader in road maintenance in Finland. It is in charge of the maintenance of 73% of the state owned roads in Finland. The Finnish Road Enterprise is a forerunner in development of weather sensitive road maintenance and traffic services. It provides solutions and services for the Finnish Road Administration, state authorities, industry and trade, municipalities, cities and citizens. Services include the planning, development, construction, management and maintenance of traffic routes, environment and services, as well as related products, solutions and consulting.
Traffic information services
Traffic information services are an essential part of the functionality and the management of the transport systems. They promote safety, smoothness, use of public transport and incident management. These services are usually splintered among many different actors and several organisations, for which reason they do not function very uniformly and efficiently from the standpoint of the user. Traffic data gathering, aggregation and delivery suffers from problems caused by separate solutions and service providers. Furthermore, the current structure of traffic information service provisioning does not make it easy to development new commercial services.
In order to overcome this problem the Finnish Road Enterprise developed a model for procurement of traffic information services jointly by public and private entities when developing a traffic information service for cities and municipalities. The service pilot took place in Oulu region, which is situated in the northern parts of Finland. Oulu is one of the biggest cities in Finland and the region has approximately 200,000 inhabitants. Oulu is one of the most information technology oriented regions in Finland with a technical university and a largescale research and development site of Nokia, the leading mobile technology provider. The service pilot was funded by the local municipalities, Finnish Road Administration, the ministry of traffic and communications as well as the private sector. It covers all of the traffic information available and in the area provides the services on the Internet, on mobile phones and via data feeds to third party solutions for commercial use.
In the beginning of the project a consortium of public organisations and private companies was formed. They negotiated together the public funding for the public services thus avoiding the development of overlapping service offerings. The private sector defines the services, which are then approved by the public authorities. There is no division between public or private services. The public funding is shared according the share of customers and the efficacy of the each traffic information service.
The model has several benefits. These include the traffic data being provided to all service providers, private and public, with same terms; and the mixture and number of service providers provides as transparent and efficient traffic information as possible. However, all this depends on the availability of strong commercial players for guaranteeing the continuity of services.