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The ESPON 2013 Operational Programme
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Availability of urban functions by rail, 2011

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Map
data source and more Map: TRACC, RRG
Data sources: RRG GIS database
 

  • From most locations in Europe at least one city can be reached in less than 60 minutes travel time, by train. However, in almost all countries regions exist with longer travel times by rail.
  • These inner-peripheral areas, mostly sparsely populated and often mountainous or smaller islands offer their citizens a lower level of access to services.
  • The higher the number of cities that can be reached from a given location in reasonable time, the greater the opportunities provided for economic and social activities and services of general interest.

Observations for policy

Access to and availability of public and private services and functions provided in urban nodes are crucial for the daily life of citizens. Easy access to urban nodes is required to fully benefit from these services. Accessibility is the main product of a transport system which determines the locational advantage of a region relative to all regions. Transport by rail is in this regard seen as a fast, reliable and environmental-friendly option for flows of goods and people between cities and rural or urban areas.

The higher the number of cities that can be reached from a given location in a reasonable time, the greater the opportunities provided for economic and social activities as well as for general interactions. Furthermore, locations that are well connected with a large number of cities are often considered to be more attractive by companies and people.

Policy context

Territorial Cohesion, one of the main objectives of EuropeÔÇÖs regional and urban policy, entails inter alia fair access to infrastructure services and the reduction of economic disparities. EuropeÔÇÖs transport network plays a key role regarding the flows of goods and people at local level between urban and rural regions, at regional, national, European and international level. Connectivity to rail services implies that cities and regions have access to the locations of materials for production and services and to markets. A general assumption is that cities and regions with a higher accessibility will be more productive, more competitive and hence more successful than regions that are more remote and isolated regions. However, in reality, other factors explaining economic performance play a role as well.

The Common Transport Policy aims at developing competitive modes of transport that helps to reduce the ÔÇťperipheral natureÔÇŁ of regions as well as the development of lagging regions with poor endowments of transport networks and high transport costs. This 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 connectivity and the importance to remove bottlenecks in the transport infrastructure are also addressed in the Territorial Agenda 2020 and EU Cohesion Policy 2014-2020, aiming at the creation of faster, more environmental-friendly and growth-related transport facilities across Europe.

Map interpretation

The map illustrates the accessibility to cities by rail. The map shows that most of European regions are well covered by EuropeÔÇÖs rail network. The timeframe of 60 minutes also relates to commuting times, therefore the functional urban areas of Europe are shown. Most European cities reach beyond there own boundaries as markets for their urban functions. However, the amount of urban functions that can be reached from a given location is not equally spread across Europe. In the agglomerated areas in Europe, such as the Ruhr area, England, Paris, the Benelux countries, Northern Italy people can reach the highest number of cities and their urban functions within one hour by train. Other metropolitan areas have a high accessibility as well and serve a large area from which the urban functions can be reached within an hour by train.

Places that cannot be reached by rail are the so-called inner-peripheral regions. These regions are surrounded by locations with better connections to urban functions and can be observed in all European countries. A common characteristic of these regions is their low population density or mountainous character. Urban functions in the Western and Southern parts of Europe are therefore better connected to other locations. At the same time a rural-urban dichotomy can be noted due to the presence of inner-peripheries.

Concepts and methods

The availability of urban functions by rail is illustrated by the number of cities with more than 50,000 inhabitants that can be reached by rail within a travel time of 60 minutes maximum. Calculations are made for raster cells of 2,5×2,5 km and aggregated to NUTS3 regions. If the travel time is less than 60 minutes, the destination is within reach and added to the number of destinations for that raster cell.


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