Finland is progressive in the production of various open survey materials. In North Karelia, refining forest data further is at a new level: in its pilot project, Oy Arbonaut Ltd from Joensuu and its partners succeeded in combining laser scanning data from open data, geometric measurement data and structural types of the road network, soil type data and load capacity classes into a digital user interface. The condition of the road network is critical to the Finnish forest sector and the economy. Similarly, roads are vital for residents along private roads, summer cottage residents, agriculture and cattle industry farmers and nature trekkers. Maintenance of the road network is expensive. The Master Plan pilot project on road maintenance now implemented shows that the cost-effectiveness of road maintenance planning and implementation can be brought to a new level by digitalisation.

Finland has nearly 370,000 kilometres of private roads. Inspired by social support, approximately 130,000 kilometres of forest car roads have been built. The road network in Finland is denser than in any other forestry country. For its part, the comprehensive road network reduces the purchasing costs of industrial timber. To keep them in good condition, roads require maintenance.

– In the first phase of the development project, the aim was to determine whether technology can be built using open data to produce accurate information for the maintenance of the forest road network. We now know that this is possible: the condition of the road can be determined from its geometric shape, says Vesa Leppänen, Chief Technology Officer at Arbonaut Ltd.

Leppänen illustrates the possibilities of digitalisation in road management by saying that working smarter is better than working harder.

– With the help of this information, corrective measures can be targeted where their need and benefits are the greatest. The next step is to consider which funding model would be the most sensible in large-scale implementation.

Cost-effectiveness

Leppänen from Arbonaut Ltd and also Mika Nousiainen from the Finnish Forest Centre agree that talking about money in connection with the maintenance of private roads and forest roads is more than welcome from the perspective of both funding providers and applicants. Nousiainen is Chief Specialist of forest roads at the Finnish Forest Centre.

– Information about roads and their condition is partly very scattered, sometimes even just in the memory of an individual person. It has not been unusual for road projects to start beyond roadless passages. The forest car road, which is important for the transportation of timber, can be in the best condition, but the village road that connects to it is all muddy in the autumn. The development project now implemented shows that real information is needed on the private road network and that this information will also be useful for road network funding, Mika Nousiainen says.

According to the estimate of the Finnish Road Association, the repair debt for private roads with lived-in houses alone is between EUR 400–450 million. The repair debt of all private roads and their bridges will rise to more than one billion. Traditional methods with visual inspections and manual measurements are laborious, expensive and inaccurate.

– Now that the condition of the road network can be digitally described, the funding bodies will have a reliable overview of the road network. Based on this, private road maintenance associations, for example, can consider which repair work should be started. The funding provider, then again, is able to prioritise and select the most impactful sites for the funding, Nousiainen exemplifies.

Many parties benefit

The digital project implemented in North Karelia is part of the Access2Forest project carried out with the Republic of Karelia. The project responsible is Business Joensuu Oy.d

– We aim for the continuation of the project – even with an extensive consortium involving the forest industry, researchers and application developers, as well as organisational actors. There is enormous potential in the production and utilisation of forest data. Digitalisation can go much deeper and even result in export products, says Timo Tahvanainen, Development Manager at Business Joensuu Oy.

Tahvanainen compares road network data to forest inventories carried out with state funds.

– Basic information is collected with government funds. Commercial operators shape the open data into a form that forest owners and professionals can use as very different services. It should be noted that although the forest sector is an important benefactor of the information, it is not the only one. Half a million Finns live along private roads. Surrounding the road network are cattle farms, agriculture, cottages and recreational forest paths.

The participants in the project that now comes to a close at the end of the year are: Business Joensuu Oy, Arbonaut Ltd, Finnish Forest Centre, Riveria, Lesnoe Bureau Partner LLC and Forest Holding Company Karellesprom. The project is funded by the European Union, Finland and Russia. Russia’s focus in the project has been on obtaining information and learning about the planning and construction of forest roads. At the same time, the possibilities of digital design could also be tested in Russian conditions.

Additional information:

Business Joensuu Oy
Timo Tahvanainen
Development Manager
+358 50 443 2950
timo.tahvanainen@businessjoensuu.fi

Oy Arbonaut Ltd
Vesa Leppänen
Chief Technology Officer
+358 50 463 4479
vesa.leppanen@arbonaut.com

Finnish Forest Centre
Mika Nousiainen
Chief Specialist of forestry roads
+358 50 372 6641
mika.nousiainen@metsakeskus.fi