Leverkusen –

Only a few more days until the start of the holiday in North Rhine-Westphalia. Traditionally, many families got into the car on Friday afternoon after school. But how is it in Corona times after the second long lockdown in Germany? Traffic experts give their first forecasts.

  • Start of the holiday season in NRW
  • Is the traffic jam chaos on the highways coming again?
  • Traffic experts with initial forecasts

Branco Seromenho (52) works on twelve screens in the windowless NRW traffic control center in Leverkusen. His job is to prevent traffic jams in North Rhine-Westphalia. Hardly anyone knows the country’s 2,200 kilometers of autobahn as well as the native Portuguese and his colleagues.

Leverkusen traffic expert with traffic jam forecast

When the most populous federal state starts the summer vacation after school on Friday (July 2nd), the expert does not expect traffic jam chaos and collapse: “I don’t believe in traffic jams, people prefer to stay on site,” he says.

A year and a quarter after the first corona lockdown, the experts are still clearly feeling the consequences of the pandemic. “We now have 90 to 95 percent of the pre-corona exposure again,” says Seromenho’s boss, the head of the traffic control department at the Autobahn Company, Thomas Wietholt. “But that only means about 50 percent traffic jams.”

Then there is a risk of traffic collapses on motorways

After all, traffic collapses occur more often when the routes are full or overloaded – and that is currently not to be expected.

Branco Seromenho in the traffic control center in Leverkusen.

At Seromenho, this is shown on the twelve screens: Almost everywhere in North Rhine-Westphalia, the green light on the routes – and that on a working day in the afternoon professional traffic. “Before Corona we would have had around 200 kilometers of traffic jams in North Rhine-Westphalia,” says the operator. Currently there are 81 on this Thursday afternoon.

A1, A2, A3: Despite Corona in North Rhine-Westphalia, it gets full here

Of course, the traffic experts still see neuralgic points – especially where construction is taking place.

Examples are the bridge construction work on the A1 between Volmarstein and Dortmund / Unna – a “congestion-prone bottleneck”, says Wietholt – the important north-south A3 motorway, among other things because of the work on noise barriers in Cologne and the A2 at the Bad Oeynhausen junction, where the Weser Bridge has been repaired since summer 2020 until the end of this year’s summer vacation.

A1, A2, A3, the “Sauerlandlinie” A45, the A 61 and the motorways around Cologne – these are the classics of the ADAC’s annual holiday traffic jam warnings. But the ADAC is also optimistic this year.

“We expect full motorways, but we do not expect traffic jam chaos like in the years before the corona pandemic,” says ADAC North Rhine traffic expert Prof. Roman Suthold. After all, the holidays have already started in five federal states.

Highest load in the last week of the holiday

Last year, according to ADAC, there were almost 20,000 traffic jam reports during the summer holidays – a total length of over 23,000 kilometers. The last week of the holiday in 2020 was the time with the highest stress.

If things slow down again this summer and the route symbols on the computers in the Leverkusen headquarters turn red, traffic jam manager Seromenho has several options: He can lower the speed limit on 570 kilometers of routes in the country on display boards above the autobahn. This allows the vehicles to flow more evenly and prevents the risk of rear-end collisions.

There are also dynamic signposts – controllable display boards – on which the control center can indicate detours to drivers. And if all else fails, Seromenho can temporarily open the hard shoulder to traffic at some points in the network – on the A 3, A 4, A 57 and A 45.

“Before doing this, we use cameras on the roadside to check whether there is nothing in the way or on the road,” says the traffic jam fighter. (dpa)

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