- The European road network links the polycentric structure of European cites and is important for the flow and goods and people in, out and across Europe over long and short distances.
- Road connections with high capacity and with high average speed enhance intra-European trade and are an important factor for European cooperation.
- Cross-border connections are less well developed in Central and Eastern European countries, dividing these countries from the European core regions and hampering further development.
Observations for policy
The European transport system does not only consist of large-scale transport infrastructures that are relevant for long distance connections. It also impacts people鈥檚 everyday life when they are commuting to their work place on a daily base, for example. Europe鈥檚 dense road network is the most used type of infrastructure for these, in many cases inter-regional flows.
Road connections with high capacity and with high average speed enhance intra-European trade and are an important factor for European cooperation. Transport Policy does not only cover the European Member States but applies to all EU28+4 countries.
Improving the road network applies to all European regions. On the one hand, regions with a dense network and well-developed cross-border connections might face traffic congestion due to newly induced traffic. This could also pose a challenge to regional gateway functions. Regions that are less connected to the main European transport corridors by motorways, on the other hand, might be hampered in their economic development.
A fully integrated single market is not possible without good connections between the various parts of Europe. According to the sixth Cohesion Report, cross-border connections are still insufficiently developed in Central and Eastern European countries, dividing these countries from the European core regions and hampering further development.
The Common Transport Policy aims at developing competitive modes of transport that helps 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 policy aims at a core European network (TEN-T) 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.
The full implementation of the TEN-T core road network by 2030 would increase the average speed of flows of people and trade significantly and particularly in Central and Eastern European countries. Both Cohesion Policy funding and the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) are targeted at the implementation of the multimodal TEN-T core network. CEF is a financing instrument tripling the budget for transport infrastructure in the 2014-2020 period seeking to remove bottlenecks and promote sustainable transport.
The map shows the density of Europe鈥檚 road network. Geographic position and morphological characteristics play an important role in the infrastructure of transport corridors. Highest densities of the road network can be observed in Europe鈥檚 densely populated area in Northwest Europe, comprising Germany, the Benelux countries, Northern France and most regions of the UK.
Those areas with high density road networks have the potential to function as gateways. This can be observed in the Benelux and Western Germany. On the other hand, when Europe鈥檚 motorways are examined, Europe鈥檚 polycentric network of main urban areas can be observed as well, e.g. relatively more motorways linking to Dublin, Madrid, Paris, Budapest, Stockholm, Helsinki or the urbanised region of Southern Poland compared to their surroundings.
Express roads are more present in the Southwest and Western parts of Europe. Regions in Spain, the UK, Western France and to a lesser extent Eastern European regions, Italy and some parts of Greece and Romania rely on express roads for the flows of people and trade.
A lower density level of the road network is to be observed in the Eastern part of the European territory with even lesser levels in the far North. The lack of fast connections by road between Eastern European Member States and from these parts of Europe to core areas, form a major barrier to economic development, as concluded by the ESPON project on accessibility.
Concepts and methods
The map shows four different types of roads in descending order of capacity and average maximum speed of these roads. Motorways have the most capacity for traffic over longer distances where cars and lorries are allowed to drive fastest, whereas trunk roads mainly connect two cities, ports, airports etc. with more restricted maximum speed.