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The control centre – a significant milestone in the development of TLT

One of the most important changes to be implemented in the organisation of TLT in the near future is the launch of the control centre on 4 April. Tarmo Lai, head of the control centre division, tells us what this entails, how it simplifies the work of public transport drivers and how it helps the company provide a more convenient and reliable service to residents.

The opening of the control centre was initially proposed for early March. However, it now appears that the date must be postponed by a month. What prompted this decision?

As an operational unit, it would be possible to open the control centre in March, as promised. The postponement is purely due to practical considerations. It turned out that the first floor of the Kadaka tee main building, where the control centre will be located, requires additional construction work that was not originally planned. This was because its floors needed replacing. However, the concrete, which was required in significantly greater and thicker amounts, needs a certain amount of time to dry before flooring can be installed, hence the month-long delay. But it is better to get the construction done properly right away than it is to correct any careless mistakes later. For the sake of the quality of the working environment, I agreed to the extension. Let’s do it once and do it well, instead of correcting careless mistakes later. After all, it is important to provide the best possible working conditions.

What are the previously separate areas of activity to be brought together by the control centre?

There are a lot of ideas on what the control centre could bring together, and discussions on this topic are still ongoing. The first order of business will be to centralise all traffic management. Dispatchers, who were previously scattered at the Kadaka tee, Vana-Lõuna and Lasnamäe locations, will now all be based in the control centre, which is based on common standards, joint understanding and shared goals. There will also be an internal surveillance unit in the centre to ensure increased quality in this area. Energy dispatching and traffic supervision will also continue in the control centre. All information will be centralised, making it more readily available and operationally easier to use. Decision-making and command chains will also shorten, improving work efficiency. The greatest advantage of the control centre is the easy availability of information, which helps to make the right decisions, reduces the amount of paperwork to zero and increases employees’ ability to complete their tasks and rationally manage their time. In terms of performance continuity, the system will become more robust and fit for purpose at every stage. It is safe to say that in the event of a major crisis, if the entire city goes dark and internet and communications go down, the TLT control centre will continue working and buses will keep running.

How is this possible?

We have invested in a back-up generator that is already operational and will ensure electricity when needed, thereby covering not only the needs of the control centre but also the refuelling of buses, workshops and car washes and the functioning of the office building’s electrical system.

What are the benefits of implementing the control centre for the whole company?

It constitutes a qualitative leap for TLT as a public transport service provider. Essential services will be delivered at a lower cost and with less time, with greater precision and rationale, relying on common foundations. Since the 2012 merger of the bus, tram and trolleybus sectors under the umbrella of Tallinna Linnatransport AS, the dispatching services of the various modes of public transport have taken separate paths, based on previously established values and working habits. Even among individuals, there were significant differences between solutions and working practices. In my view, it was not reasonable to continue this way. Issues were building up already in day-to-day processes. For example, it was difficult to find replacement for employees taking leave because work culture and practices differed so much between dispatching units and individuals that the replacement could find themselves in a situation where the tasks that they were performing perfectly in their own dispatching unit put them in incredibly difficult situations in another, with the effectiveness of the company suffering as a result. Now, such situations will come to an end. A service that operates on a common agreed-upon basis ensures that it is implemented in such a way that the company can achieve its goals. The control centre will become the heart of TLT.

What will this look like in practice?

The control centre will operate similarly to an air traffic control centre. We will welcome the driver in the morning, deliver electronic timetables and monitor their work throughout the day, intervening and providing assistance, where necessary. In the evening, we will record their return from the route and the end of their working day. We will function as system managers and operators, facilitating, assisting and advising functioning public transport. We will also work to ensure a safe and comfortable journey and prevent and solve any emergencies.

The control centre will be responsible for all public transport activities in real time. We will have an immediate overview of any traffic jams and be able to find solutions to ensure that the timetable is followed as closely as possible despite the obstacles. We will be aware of any dangerous traffic situations, for example when someone cuts in front of a bus and causes it to brake suddenly. We will also be able to see if any of our drivers drives illegally. In the event of any traffic accidents, we can immediately start finding back-ups and deploy roadside assistance and traffic patrol to deal with the situation and direct traffic on the spot.

How many people will start working at the control centre on 4 April?

The control centre’s strike force includes over 100 employees. There will be up to eight employees per shift at the dispatch centre. There will be additional traffic patrols, which will spend most of their time on the streets, as well as roadside assistance teams, an energy dispatcher and internal surveillance on constant standby.

What kind of commitment and goal-oriented focus has it taken to set up the control centre and prepare the working premises?

On 1 February, I celebrated five years of working at TLT, the last of which I spent as the manager of the control centre division. I have been involved with the launch of the control centre, starting from its early visions, for four years, the last of which has been the most intense and demanding. Work to specify the control centre’s tasks, making it more efficient and effective, will most likely never come to an end. Only by constantly evolving and developing can the modern operational unit keep up with the demands and changes of its time. We have enough ideas on how to achieve this for the next five to six years.

You mentioned that you have been working at TLT for five years. What has this time given you?

These five years feel like the blink of an eye. Fundamental changes have taken place during this time, such as the launch of the control centre, for example. We are an innovative and growing company, constantly aiming to fly higher. It’s a pleasure to participate in this flight, even when sometimes the wind is in your ears and your heart is racing. I enjoy doing things with passion and enthusiasm, always going all in, and TLT is the best place to do all of that.

Have you also thought about how to enter the game as smoothly as possible on 4 April?

We don’t want to risk going into the unknown on 4 April without knowing how to operate. For almost half a year, test vehicles with electronic timetables have been on the routes, proving the feasibility of the paperless solution. We are in the process of testing the system and its functioning, but as of today, we are not quite ready. At this point, I would like to thank all of our hardworking employees from the control centre and IT to the service division, who have shown great dedication and helped us run through and prepare for all potential situations.

With the control centre, we have also caught the attention of other companies that are interested in what we are doing and see opportunities for collaboration to modernise their own management systems. We are approaching 4 April knowing that the system is functional and that the resources we have invested in its development have paid off.