Modelling Sweden’s future transport needs
For Sweden to have the right transport tomorrow, its decision makers need the right information today. That meant bringing IT, analytics, and project management experts together to enable the Swedish Transport Administration (Trafikverket) to build the next generation of transport forecasting models and tools.
Transport infrastructure like roads and railways needs planning well in advance. But the world in 20 to 30 years’ time will be very different from today. To bridge the gap, decision makers need insights to help them understand how the population and their behaviours might look in the future and how that will affect the transport planning decisions. This was the challenge facing Trafikverket, the organisation responsible for much of Sweden’s infrastructure.
Updating today’s view of tomorrow
To get critical decisions right, transport planners, politicians, and officials rely on forecasting models. PA Agile expert Oskar Sevefjord explained: “Models predict key factors about tomorrow’s world, like what will travel frequency be, how will that travel be distributed amongst the different means of travel, and what will the travel patterns be. Predicting these things are essential so that Trafikverket can make the best decisions based on the best assumptions that can be made.”
These models also enable Trafikverket to assess the value of infrastructure investment and determine the social cost-effectiveness of projects. Models also predict the potential benefits to customers such as savings in travel time and travel costs, reductions in carbon emissions and traffic accidents, and tear down costs.
The need to replace the models was first discussed over a decade ago, and work to develop the next generation of forecasting software had begun in 2019. But by 2021, Trafikverket needed help around alignment and increasing the speed of development. The delivery of the project had a hard date of March 2023. Trafikverket had the knowledge of how the models work but needed a partner to help them deliver and implement them. At this point, Trafikverket had to decide on whether to stick with its existing models or harness the next generation.
Collaborating to travel in the same direction
Our team brought transport modelling experience having carried out this type of work for ProRail in the Netherlands, enabling them to plan maintenance more effectively.
We set to work interviewing all the team members involved in the project about their progress so far. It was clear from what we heard that Trafikverket would benefit from collaborating more closely. Sevefjord explained: “The teams had been working independently. We agreed that they needed to come together, with a shared plan and idea of the outcome, as well as a common method, timetable, and a shared language. This would be the most efficient way to use their skills and produce a result in time.”
Agile methods offer some of these benefits by bringing different ideas and techniques together. The answer was to devise an operating model drawing on agile ways of working. “This was a substantial change, so we took care to bring all the teams with us and adapt parts of the method where we had to,” said Sevefjord. “While some of the IT specialists were familiar with agile methods, for instance, the analytics teams needed a little more help to become familiar and comfortable with them.”
The operating model we agreed with Trafikverket clarified roles and responsibilities for teams and individuals, as well as how they would develop, test, and iterate their emerging concepts and prototypes. Sevefjord added: “Now, because everything was documented, right down to how meetings were run and what they discussed, everyone had a clear idea of how they contributed, when results were expected, and how the project was progressing overall. This worked despite teams and individuals being spread across Sweden.”
Getting a clear view of the future
Over a period of 20 months, together with Trafikverket, we produced new models for forecasting traffic demand and implemented them in the new transport analytics software system. This meant that for the first time, these models have been tested and documented in a systematic way. In turn, Trafikverket now has a proven way of testing future iterations of models, and they can now roll out these models at a national level.
And from 2024, Trafikverket will rely exclusively on the new models, as it decommissions the existing ones, meaning it is well set to continue to accurately predict Sweden’s future transport needs.