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Case study: Belgian bus company TEC

Running smoothly now - ASTRID keeps the transport operator connected. Bus drivers and controllers can now shuttle seamlessly between the Belgian cities of Liège and Verviers. That's because transport operator TEC (Terre En Commun) has joined ASTRID, Belgium's countrywide public safety radio network.

TEC.jpgThe seamless radio connections make changing drivers, controlling schedules and following up in the event of a breakdown much easier.

The Liège-Verviers TEC controllers have been using ASTRID radios almost 24 hours a day since summer 2010.

ASTRID has already boosted its coverage so it reaches across the transport network as far as Dutch and German borders. The old analogue network only allowed the controllers to communicate in the downtown area of Liège.

And ASTRID is improving driver safety, thanks to reliable communications throughout the bus routes.

TETRA for transportation companies

Every day, hundreds of TEC buses pass through the Place Saint-Lambert in the centre of Liège. Yves Corin coordinates the operation from his control cabin on Place Saint-Lambert in collaboration with the TEC control centre.

"I must remain constantly in contact with the dispatchers. Over the old communication system, we could not always understand what the other party was saying," he says. "Now that we use ASTRID, life is so much simpler."

Jean-Luc Huppen is one of a team of controllers who drive between 100 and 200km per day around the transportation network — from Liège and Verviers to Maastricht in the Netherlands and Aachen in Germany — to monitor routes.

His day might involve dealing with cars parked at bus stops, planning alternative routes if there's been an accident or making sure all of the routes are passable during a snowstorm.

"We must be in constant contact with the dispatchers. Before, we often did not understand what they said, and it was very irritating. We had to use mobile phones instead, but that was expensive," Mr. Huppen says.

"Today, everything is perfect. We hear and understand each other and we are more effective. There's also a talk group that allows us controllers to communicate between ourselves."

Ready for anything

Today, the Liège-Verviers team uses ASTRID only for voice communications. But TEC is considering adding GPS positioning and short data messaging to its services.

Other improvements include coordinating TEC operations with the police forces and fire and rescue services during major events such as the City Parade and the Outremeuse Festival.

"ASTRID allows us to communicate easily with all authorities," says Michel Schoonbroodt, operational director of TEC Liège-Verviers.

"In these kinds of events, it is essential to coordinate the knowledge from transportation personnel with the police forces. We also wish to reinforce our collaboration to deal with disasters, even if we're only a minor player in these situations. "

For example, TEC helped to evacuate residents and brought in fire fighters by bus when there was a major gas explosion in the centre of Liège in January 2010.