Esch-sur-Alzette Replicator Site

Esch-sur-Alzette-logo

Today Esch-sur-Alzette has different connections to public transport. A railway line of Luxembourg’s National Railway Company CFL is connecting Esch-sur-Alzette and its suburbs via three stations to the capital of Luxembourg. Different regional bus lines are entering the centre of Esch-sur-Alzette and are thus connecting different parts of the town to each other as well as to other parts of Luxembourg. Public transport in Luxembourg is composed of more than 180 regional lines operated by different transport operators, under the control of the government (RGTR-Réseau Général des Transports Routiers). Public transport in the canton of Esch-sur-Alzette (which is composed of 14 municipalities) under the control of and operated by the intermunicipal syndicate TICE (Transport intercommunal de personnes dans le canton d’Esch-sur-Alzette). TICE is only operating within these fourteen municipalities in the south of Luxembourg. Buses leaving these municipalities are under the control of RGTR.
The different coloured lines are representing TICE and RGTR bus lines and the dotted red line is representing the train line. The bus lines are following the broader main streets of the town and the train line is partly driving around Esch-sur-Alzette, with a train station on the border of the town. Transportation to the different residential areas is lacking due to low and medium passenger demand as well as to the fact that the streets in the residential areas are not suited to accommodate conventional sized buses. The vast majority of the 35.000 residents in Esch- sur-Alzette as well as commuters, students and visitors coming from outside are dependant of their individual car or taxis as their means of transport. The high usage of individual cars and taxis worsened the traffic and parking situation in Esch-sur-Alzette to the point that people are avoiding the town centre. The business sector and the residential marked are suffering from the resulting decline in the quality of life in the centre of Esch-sur-Alzette.
In August 2018 a large-scale survey among the residents of Esch-sur-Alzette conducted by the municipality of Esch-sur-Alzette, revealed several topics that need to be addressed in future in order to improve the quality of life in Esch-sur-Alzette again. One of the populations’ major concerns is the current lack of accessibility of the centre of Esch-sur-Alzette due to the oversaturation of the streets by individual cars and the missing of public transport.

Esch-sur-Alzette counts 35.000 inhabitants from more than 120 nationalities and is the second most populated city in Luxembourg. Esch-sur-Alzette is located on the border to France at 17 km South of the capital Luxembourg-City. Esch-sur-Alzette has a lively past with the development of the steel and iron industry in Luxembourg. At the end of the 19th and in the first half of the 20th century many mines and blast furnaces were located in and around Esch-sur-Alzette and contributed to the economic growth of Luxembourg. As a result of the steel crisis in the 1970s the steel production went continuously down in Luxembourg and the infrastructure was left behind. In the past 10 years, Esch-sur-Alzette is giving a new life to the former industrial sites, Esch-Belval and Esch-sur-Alzette-Schifflange by transforming them into innovative urban living and working areas where industrial heritage, modern administrative and residential buildings coexist in perfect harmony. During the last years more and more technology companies, start-up incubators, medical laboratories, insurance companies, research institutes, banks and advertising agencies are settling on this site. Furthermore, four residential areas and two educational institutions are located in this area. Currently 80 different companies have settled in the Esch-Belval area, many more are to come because the site is still under full development and is getting a considerable reputation among companies. In future 7.000 residents and 20.000 employees, university and high school students and researchers will be located on this site. The transformation of the former steel production site of Esch-sur-Alzette-Schifflange is still under development and will begin in 2022. These innovative and ambitious projects will play a major role in improving the regions’ quality of life. Innovative mobility solutions to connect the centre of Esch-sur-Alzette, Esch-Belval and the former industrial site of Esch-Schifflange will be essential to guarantee accessibility to all kinds of people from different socio-economic groups to the different sites. Furthermore, Esch-sur-Alzette is carrying the title “European Capital of Culture 2022”. Eleven municipalities (known as the ProSud alliance) and 8 municipalities (CCPHVA, Communité de communes du Pays Haut Val d’Alzette) from the French border are also involved in the “European Capital of Culture 2022”. A cooperation with the city of Kaunas in Lithuania, which will be cultural city in 2022 as well, is also planned.an Capital of Culture 2022”. A cooperation with the city of Kaunas in Lithuania, which will be cultural city in 2022 as well, are also planned.

Integrating with AVENUE
Currently the deployment of an autonomous shuttle in the main shopping street (rue de l’Alzette) in the centre of Esch-sur- Alzette is under preparation. In a first phase (to start in July 1st 2021) a NAVYA shuttle will be used as a vehicle. SLA has already four NAVYA shuttles operating on three different sites in Luxembourg. Legal work to get the necessary authorizations for further NAVYA shuttles is facilitated as the technical specifications of this particular type of vehicle have already been validated by the National Society of Automotive Vehicles (SNCA). An authorisation to drive on this particular route from the Luxembourgish Ministry of Mobility and Public Works (MMTP) will be necessary as well as an authorisation from the municipality of Esch-sur-Alzette. The same as with the approval and registration of the vehicles, the necessary authorisations to operate on the planned route will be much easier and faster as this work has already been done for our previous four NAVYA shuttles. The deadline to be in possession of all the necessary legal authorisations is set to end of February 2021. In this first phase (phase 1), the shuttle will be deployed as of 1st July 2021 on a fixed route and on a fixed schedule in the main shopping street of Esch-sur-Alzette during the opening hours of the shops. Outside of the opening hours, the shuttle will be operated ‘on-demand’ in the rue de l’Alzette. In parallel to this phase, the preparation for the homologation of a vehicle from another vehicle manufacturer will start. SLA has a close relationship with the autonomous vehicle manufacturers Lohr, e.GO, Apollo and HFM. As these vehicles are not yet homologated in Luxembourg, the delay to get the necessary legal authorisations will be longer than for the NAVYA shuttle. The deadline will be set to end of December 2021, so that the deployment of the second vehicle could start in January 2022, depending the outcome of the homologation phase (phase 2). The aim is to replace the NAVYA shuttle that is operating in the rue de l’Alzette by this vehicle. The operating mode should remain the same: fixed-route, fixed schedule during operating hours of the shops and fixed-route, on-demand outside of the opening hours.
The NAVYA shuttle will then be used to operate on another route which is today operated by a minibus that circulates every 30 minutes . This minibus called ‘Gaalgebus’ is connecting the train station of Esch-sur-Alzette and the town centre to a nearby recreational and leisure area ‘Gaalgebierg’. This conventional minibus will be replaced by the autonomous NAVYA shuttle (phase 2).

The long-term vision for an autonomous based, door-to-door service in Esch-sur-Alzette:
In the first quarter of 2022, when Esch-sur-Alzette becomes the European Capital of Culture, the objective is to start the operation of a shuttle with dynamic routing in a geographically defined area, without fixed bus lines or predefined timetables to connect thus the different cultural hotspots (museums, event places, concert halls, theatres, …). In a first phase, predefined bus stops will be foreseen to board and alight passengers (phase 3). After validation of the shuttles’ operation, the aim is to switch to a real on-demand, door-to-door operation mode without fixed bus stops (phase 4). The planned network for dynamic routing will be deployed inside a geofenced area in the residential area in the centre of Esch- sur-Alzette. Figure 6 shows the boundaries of the planned site.
This layout of the shuttle network enables to connect the residents of Esch-sur-Alzette to the centre as well as to the existing public transport stops. The yellow dotted line in Figure 7 represents the shuttle route in the main shopping street ‘rue de l’Alzette’ which will be deployed in phase 1 of the project and which will stay in operation for the whole duration of the project.
The door-to-door shuttle network, together with the two fixed routes ‘rue de l’Alzette’ and ‘Gaalgebierg’ will fill the current existing gap of public transport in the centre of Esch-sur- Alzette. The autonomous shuttles will offer a connection between the existing public transport lines, the centre of Esch-sur-Alzette and the residential and leisure areas.
The residential area is perfectly fitted as a testbed for an autonomous on-demand, door-to-door mobility concept because this area is excluded from public transport and in most parts the legal speed is limited to 30 km/h. Furthermore, the layout of the residential area with the substantial number of intersections enables efficient dynamic-routing opportunities. The vision is to be official mobility partner for the European Capital of Culture Esch 2022.

In order to improve the usability of the autonomous shuttles, the aim is to integrate them in the existing public transport services. Today a national information system on public transport across the Grand-Duchy of Luxembourg exists where the user can get automatic trip planning suggestions including different means of transportation via a web page or a mobile application. The aim is that in future the autonomous shuttles are integrated in this service too and that the user gets a trip suggestion to use the autonomous shuttles in combination with the different bus and train connections including new mobility solutions like bicycle and scooter sharing services available in Esch-sur-Alzette.
For the planned autonomous door-to-door mobility service with dynamic routing it is essential that the user knows when he is in a zone where he can call a shuttle and that there is a system in place that enables him to call a shuttle. A system explaining how the mobility service is working is essential to make the shuttles accessible to all, even the people that are not familiar with technology. For the use case in Esch-sur-Alzette this is very important due to the fact that more than 120 different nationalities of all age groups are living here. Different nationalities and age groups have a different knowledge and understanding of technology. The users have to get notified when entering an on-demand zone and need a simple solution to call a shuttle and get an explanation on how to use it or get help for any urgent matter. (Single button vehicle calls and help request).
Visualisation in real time of the path/destination, in vehicle entertainment, emergency automatic call system, enhance the sense of security and trust, prevention of night aggressions, virtual personality interaction, mutual help facilitation, follow my kid/grandmother/grandfather are in- and out-of-vehicle services that can be implemented and tested in the proposed site. The very diverse population of Esch-sur-Alzette, which will represent the main users of the shuttle service, will bring important results on the acceptance and usage from the different user groups of the offered in- and out-of-vehicle services.