Shuttle successful in record time due to government funding

Een van de smart mobility-projecten in de Brainportregio is de elektrische deelauto Amber. © Jean Pierre Reijnen

BRAINPORT MILLIONS |HELMOND – From 2020, a self-propelled electric bus will be driving between the train station and the Automotive Campus in Helmond.

Serie Brainport Millions: The national government and the region are investing millions in the Eindhoven region to make it more attractive to companies and knowledge workers. In a series, the ED newspaper focuses on the question: what will the money be spent on?

The ‘autonomous shuttle’ is one of the smart mobility projects that the Brainport region is planning to implement to improve the accessibility of Southeast Brabant. According to project manager Marcel de Pender of Brainport Development, the idea has been around for some time, but implementation has been accelerated thanks to the millions of government funding within the framework of the ‘Region Envelope’. De Pender: “This project, on this scale, would not have been possible without government funding. The development is now happening in record speed.”

A total of 130 million euros will go to the region, the first 25 of which have now been put to practical use. Two million euros from the pot is intended for ‘smart mobility solutions’. The region itself also contributes five million, coming from the funds left over after the failure of the ‘diamond development project’ in the Eindhoven region. Half of the two million in government subsidy goes to the self-driving shuttle. De Pender: “Such a project is hardly affordable for a municipality alone. Also, we can now start to look at other economic hotspots in the region where this public transport facility can be used. After all, one shuttle has no significant influence on regional accessibility.”

De Pender names the Run industrial estate in Veldhoven or the High-Tech Campus in Eindhoven as potential areas. The advantages over an average city bus are evident, says De Pender, “The shuttle is cheaper – no driver is needed, for example – and it runs electrically. A regular bus is unprofitable on this route.”

Smart hubs

A second project, financed by government funds, involves the construction of ‘smart hubs’, a facility in a strategic location close to a business park, where commuters can switch to another means of transport. This could be a company van, a shared car or a rental bike.

The smart hubs also need office space with flexible workstations. The first smart hub – on the currently underused P&R site on the Noord-Brabantlaan – is scheduled to start in 2019. “To stimulate the use of shared cars, you could consider having people clock in on the smart hub so that the last part of the trip will take place while the employee is ‘on the clock’.”

Plans for smart hubs are also in place for the Genneper Parken, as part of the P&R planned there, and in Best, south of the A58 motorway.

The government funding will also be used to expand the possibilities for start-ups to test new inventions in the mobility lab at the Automotive Campus.

The Brainport manager also knows that there is a certain amount of scepticism about ‘smart mobility’. It is often said: first, make sure you have the infrastructure to match all these plans. But that can also lead to people using the car more often. De Pender: “Infrastructure adjustments are certainly necessary, but that alone will not solve the problem structurally. You also need to look at other solutions.”

Meanwhile, he is starting to understand the scepticism a bit: “The effect of smart mobility has so far been rather limited. It is therefore up to us to make sure that tangible things are done that make people happy to use them. Initiatives such as this shuttle, to name one.”