As many different partners are involved in combined transport chains, EDI and telecommunications need to facilitate operations for the final customer. Internet based solutions can reach a wide variety of clients but are usually chaotic: every provider has its own data-structure.
CESAR-I developed and tested Internet based standards on one European corridor.
The CESAR-II project aims to meet the demands of six European operators to open the first successful pilot system on other corridors and types of intermodal transport chains, adding new specific services.
The overall objective of CESAR (Co-operative European System for Advanced Information Redistribution) is the improvement of intermodal transport performance and quality, to attract more transport volume for intermodal transport and increase efficiency of transport in the European Union by establishing a common and harmonised tracking and tracing system.
CESAR-II identifies, analyses and implements a pilot version of an extended system with broader modal coverage and improved service level. It behaves like a virtual company while maintaining accessible transport services of different operators.
Under one single interface on the Web, the following functionalities are developed:
- European harmonised timetables
- Common tracking and tracing system
- Information in case of irregularities.
In addition, the CESAR II project has been working on the following main additions to the CESAR system:
- Enlargement and deepening of the CESAR system to further intermodal transport markets, services and functions,
- Inclusion of further information sources into the automatic message transfer,
- Improvement of the current system and establishment of electronic data exchange between the system and data systems of clients,
- Integration of container transport systems,
- Further dissemination and enlargement of coverage area.
CESAR II project was carried out according to the following steps:
- Integration of additional services: timetables, service offers and prices for unaccompanied traffic. The first design problem to be taken into consideration was to allow customers to have a direct access to a centralised consolidated European timetable based on information sent by the different operators. A common exchange format for this information and a common layout for the presentation of information to the customer have been established.
- Integration of additional status events (the irregularities). The handling of irregularity information is the most complex function in the CESAR system but also a puzzle for the operator's EDP systems. The basis is a well-defined organisation between the operators to give the customer a consistent picture of the situation. The operational departments of each involved operator take care on irregularity information from different sources: the CESAR project fulfills the need of harmonising the structures and rules of the different organisations involved in the same transport.
- Automatic inclusion of data from dedicated systems. This step had the CESAR partners connect tracking and tracing systems to their in-house operation systems and not directly to the central CESAR server. The in-house systems receive on-schedule or delayed information and enquire what has happened. Then, they create an irregularity message including a coded reference to the circumstances of this irregularity. This allows the client to judge whether he has to initiate specific action or not. Such information cannot be derived directly from tracking and tracing systems.
- Integration of further specific intermodal transport areas. The CESAR partners investigated three main areas for future possible enlargement to further areas of the CESAR system: the inclusion of intermodal transports between Great Britain and the continent using the Channel Tunnel, the inclusion of port to hinterland transport by interconnecting ship services and the inclusion of intermodal transport operators outside the European Union.
- Establishment of computer-to-computer data flow between CESAR and clients' systems. A number of key customers of CESAR operators were interviewed and stated they prefer a light solution which enables them to automatically treat CESAR data without having to in
The CESAR II project implemented a system that reports in real time so-called irregularities between operator's data in order to provide a common multimodal information system. Based on a harmonised European approach, the data is analysed and interpreted by the operators and translated in terms that are easily understandable for customers.
The project also includes special data for Great Britain in order to link it with European Continent intermodal transport services. Moreover, a link between the CESAR system and an intermodal transport operator outside the European Union is ready.
The system is prepared to store some maritime information when applicable in order to ensure transfer from this information from one operator to another.
A direct link to Rolling Motorway offers from the different operators has been developed. This link includes display of timetables and display of prices and conditions.
CESAR overcame two main risks for operators: equalisation of service levels with those of competitors (= loss of competitive advantage) and dependence on an external central system in an area of strategic importance.
Concerning the first point, recognising the necessary European harmonisation of the customer interface will not completely equalise the services behind, because, even if the formal system is the same, the data quality may differ to a certain extent between routes and services, as all data are collected and supplied by different operators.
On the second point, even though the CESAR project has strengthened trust between the partners, the necessity to elaborate clear rules and procedures was obvious and a proposal for a memorandum of understanding between the partners was drafted. A number of these principles have been formally agreed upon.
Direct computer-to-computer links between the CESAR system and the data processing systems of intermodal transport clients is a logical further development of the CESAR system. Currently, some major clients have already asked for such possibilities, and the necessary work for this additional service has been undertaken. Different protocols and formats have already been examined, but the approach that has been implemented will allow as much as possible flexibility in the format produced in order to cover the largest number of customers and their future needs.
The founding of the company 'Cesar Information Services' was a result of the very successful project to create a stable organisation for these services as a strategic function for each connected operator. Other interested operators will be involved and so step-by-step European standards for client-operators and operator-operators interfaces will be developed.
In 2003, the partners decided to create a common neutral structure in order to be able to manage the whole CESAR system. This new structure will ease the inclusion of new operators to the CESAR system; these operators can prepare their connection already while the CESAR system is running and to enlarge the application in favour of a Europe-wide solution.