- Freight connectivity and economic development are closely related. The more intercontinental throughput can be reached, the more opportunities for trade are easily accessible for a region.
- Insufficient rail infrastructure, in terms of capacity and density of the network, or the absence of a nearby port, implies less such opportunities.
- Within the periphery, Western regions are better connected. Regions that cannot be reached within the 48-hour timeframe can be found in the Nordic countries and Southeast Europe.
Observations for policy
Most European regions are well connected to Europe鈥檚 most important seaports by rail within 48 hours. Central and Western European regions have the highest accessibility in terms of container throughput, this is not only limited to coastal regions but includes also landlocked hinterland regions with well developed rail connections.
Less well-connected regions to global freight connectivity might lack the presence of a nearby major European port, or have insufficient rail infrastructure. The latter accounts mainly for regions in South East Europe. Even though Southeast Europe has major container ports, linking Europe with the rest of the world, the rail infrastructure including transhipment could be improved, making better connections between the ports and their hinterland and remove bottlenecks.
Regional access to the global market is important for the region鈥檚 competitiveness, exports and GDP. A large share of the global trade is shipped in containers. Goods are transported from Europe鈥檚 ports via road, rail and waterways across Europe and across the globe.
The Common Transport Policy, aims at developing, competitive modes of transport that help to reduce the peripheral nature of regions as well as the development of lagging regions with poor endowments of transport networks and high transport costs. This is also supported by EU Cohesion Policy, which aims at sustainable transport and removing bottlenecks in key network infrastructure. Illustrating the regional accessibility by different modes of transport can help to indicate and show these bottlenecks.
Rail infrastructure is a relatively energy efficient mode of transport. Europe鈥檚 Common Transport Policy aims at a core European network connecting 94 main ports to rail and road links, 38 key airports with rail connections, 15.000 km of railway lines upgraded to high speed and 35 cross-border projects to reduce bottlenecks.
Territorial Cohesion, one of the main objectives of Europe鈥檚 regional and urban policy, entails inter alia fair access to infrastructure services and the reduction of economic disparities. Freight connectivity implies that cities and regions have access to the locations of materials for production and services and to markets. It is believed that cities and regions that are most accessible will be more productive, more competitive and hence more successful than regions that are more remote and isolated.
The map illustrates the accessibility of European regions to European intercontinental container ports. The accessibility is measured as the number of containers that can be transported to and shipped from nearby ports within 48 hours by rail.
Most regions are well connected to European seaports by rail with a high throughput of containers. Also landlocked regions are well connected by rail to Europe鈥檚 most important ports.
However, core and peripheral European regions, in terms of global freight connectivity, can be distinguished. This has two main reasons. First, most of Europe鈥檚 major ports are centred around the North Sea. The higher number of ports with a high turnover of containers makes it more easy to connect from any location to one or more of these ports by rail.
Secondly, the global freight connectivity is lower in some regions due to poorer rail infrastructure. The rail transport network is for example less dense in the Nordic countries and has less capacity in terms of trains per hour and travel time in Bulgaria and Romania. Some regions in the Northern Periphery, as well as in the Baltic States and Greece cannot be reached by rail within the 48 hours timeframe.
Concepts and methods
Global freight connectivity is an accessibility indicator of Europe鈥檚 intercontinental ports. The map includes those European ports with intercontinental links and a throughput of more than 250.000 TEU containers (Twenty-foot Equivalent Units) per year via rail. Throughput is defined as the amount of containers passing through a region. The map only covers those containers that pass through a region which in the end have an intercontinental destination.
The map displays the number of intercontinental container throughputs that can reach the NUTS3 regions within 2 days (48 hours) by rail. If a seaport is within the maximum travel time, the intercontinental container throughput of that port will be added to the regional global connectivity value for freight in thousands TEU per year. The travel time includes fixed time, e.g. loading time and transhipment time.