The Swedish Transport Administration: “We can be much better with a digital approach”

Anders Aabakken, Head of Department for Technology, Environment and Maintenance at the Swedish Transport Administration.

The transport system faces major challenges: the overall maintenance backlog is growing, accelerated by increased traffic and climate change.
– We have recently seen several examples of how this has led to major problems. To meet the challenges, we need to digitise our operations to a much greater extent, says Anders Aabakken of the Swedish Transport Administration, who will take part in the Maintenance Strategy conference on 13 March.

Anders Aabakken, Head of Department for Technology, Environment and Maintenance at the Swedish Transport Administration, will set out his thoughts at the Maintenance Strategy conference, part of the Swedish Maintenance Fair (Underhållsmässan), which is organised by the Swedish Exhibition & Congress Centre and takes place from12-15 March.

He will talk about digitised asset management in the agenda item, Digitalisation and automation at the operational level.

– It is essentially road and railway maintenance. I would say that 99 per cent of the Swedish Transport Administration’s activity is in our existing facilities. This means that operations and maintenance are crucial to our performance in the transport network, he says.

A gigantic task

If you consider the sheer scale of the transport infrastructure, you soon realise the enormity of the challenge: The Swedish Transport Administration is responsible for the operation of 98,500 km of state roads, 14,000 km of railway track and 20,000 bridges.

– Our organisation is currently structured manually, Anders Aabakken says.

– In a more digitalised administration, we could link influencing factors such as traffic, weather and safety issues to the currently available infrastructure, i.e. our roads and railways.

Doing away with manual effort
No one could have failed to notice the high-profile problems that caused chaos in many places this autumn and winter: cars stuck on the roads, washed out railways, switching failures, signalling failures, overhead line failures.

To solve the needs of the business and to prevent acute problems arising to a greater extent, it is necessary to move away from the manual approach, where important information risks being missed or delayed, Anders explains.

– Our operational activities would clearly benefit from a digitalised and automated infrastructure within the Swedish Transport Administration. A platform we can share with other relevant authorities, police and emergency services. It would be faster, more efficient and provide better service delivery at a lower cost.

Taking new steps each year

The Swedish Transport Administration’s transition to digital, automated operations is ongoing.

– We are prioritising switches, overhead lines, tunnels and road surfaces to solve critical situations earlier, Anders Aabakken explains.

– When it comes to complex road infrastructure and tunnels in large cities, especially in Stockholm, we are almost there: we already work this way.

This means using digital technology to monitor what is happening remotely and intervene quickly if and when the situation deteriorates.

– We will take new steps on this journey every year going forward, which means that we are gradually improving. In ten years, I expect to see a completely different mode of production.

Increasing complexity

The deliverable output, expressed in car kilometres and passenger kilometres, is closely linked to maintenance, which has a specific objective: to keep roads and railways accessible and passable.

– The work is complicated by the constant introduction of new requirements. We have to deal with climate change, CO2 emissions, new safety requirements, and more, Anders says.

– The complexity is now so great that it is impossible to manage with a manual approach. Computers are better at that. That’s where we need to get to, as soon as we can, he concludes.