New crisis centre to avoid winter road chaos
Luxembourg believes that it has learned its lesson from the road chaos of last December: Thousands of motorists were left stranded, forced to spend the night in their cars, stuck on the A3 motorway due to heavy snowfall.
This year promises to be different with a central crisis centre coordinating various services. It is due to be jointly run by the police and the government Department of Infrastructure and located at Kalchesbruck-Findel.
Casting our minds back to 9 December 2010, many of us will remember a serious snow-fall in the late afternoon spreading panic on the country's roads during rush hour.
On the A3 motorway towards France, a truck skidded ending up sideways across the lanes and blocking the motorway. Unable to move in any direction due to the snow, it had to be abandoned. This made it impossible for motorists to move forward. Shortly after midnight, the border with France was closed: Thousands of motorists were trapped and forced to spend the night in their vehicles, many with children on board.
No more mobile phones. Radio systems back on board!
"It is exactly for these reasons that we have taken a number of measures so that we don't relive this nightmare" explained Dany Frank, spokesman for the Ministry of Sustainable Development and Infrastructure. "Motorists had no information while services were overwhelmed."
Therefore, the ministry, police and Highways Agency have jointly developed a communication plan in case of another "winter crisis."
"Our first issue in 2010 was telephone conversations between the control centre and snowplough trucks, made impossible by the saturation of the telephone network. Virtually all motorists were calling home to inform their families of their predicament. This meant that communication was cut. We have now rectified the situation. "
While the entire fleet has been equipped with mobile phone systems for a few years, 2011 will mark the return of a radio system on trucks, far more reliable during a crisis.
All information centralised Kalchesbruck
Second problem last year: "CITA in Bertrange was inundated with calls when their job is to organise and survey traffic and not manage communication. So we created a crisis centre to be set up at police headquarters in Findel close to Kalchesbruck. It will consist of officers from the Department of Infrastructure and agents from the communication unit of the police who will manage all the information to be distributed", stated Dany Frank.
CITA will ensure the relay between patrols and those that actually physically deal with emergencies such as snowploughs. As for distribution channels, all media will be utilised: signs above motorways, radio, internet news (wort.lu), official CITA website (www.cita.lu) and police website (www.police.lu). Twitter will also be used, although only recently set up, has proved to be effective (@PoliceLux)
Regarding cross-border issues, and in accordance with cooperation agreements between neighbouring countries in times of crisis, namely France and Belgium, trucks and snowploughs will be stored in predefined areas close to borders.