International urban connectivity, 2011


Observations for policy

Cities are dynamic transport gateways. Road infrastructure is dominant in linking urban centres. The cross-border connections illustrated in this map show the gateway function of cities and their main hinterland based on transport by road. Many short distance relations show high accessibility of these gateways, making them more competitive at a continental and global scale.

A limited number of cross-border connections by road might be complemented by other modes of transport. For example, high speed railway connections such as in France and Spain, or by plane to connect the northern parts of Scandinavia.

Policy context

Good and fast accessibility of both public and freight transport is a key factor to the success of Europe’s economy. A fully integrated single market is not possible without good connections between the various parts of Europe. Cross-border connections are crucial. However, often they are not well enough developed resulting in bottlenecks for the flows of goods and people in, out and across 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.

Cities function as gateways of accessibility which benefit from a large amount of fast connections across national borders. European Transport 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 particularly in Central and Eastern Europe. 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 aiming to remove bottlenecks and promoting sustainable transport.

Map interpretation

The map illustrates the cross-border connections by road between European cities. The map shows that international connectivity is mainly restricted to neighbouring countries. The city-to-city relations across national borders are most dense in the Benelux countries, towards Northern France and Western Germany. Furthermore, cities in France, Italy and Switzerland have large numbers of connections to other cities in neighbouring countries. There are also many connections across the former Iron Curtain, between cities in East Germany and Poland and the Czech Republic, and between Austrian and Slovakian and Hungarian cities as well as between Italian and Slovenian and Croatian cities.

Within Eastern Europe the level of city-to-city relations is much lower as compared to Western Europe because the amount of cities that can be reached within the same time is lower in most Eastern European countries than in Western Europe. The dense network of cities in Western Europe also entails shorter links between cities. In Eastern Europe, on the other hand, a less dense network of cities, the partly low levels of transport infrastructure endowment and geomorphological and physical features of the terrain, result in lower urban connectivity.

Portuguese cities and also most regions in Southeast Europe are comparatively well connected, both on national and on cross-border level, whereas the urban connectivity in Nordic countries, Southern Italy, Southeast Spain and Western and Central UK is rather poor.

Concepts and methods

Urban connectivity is illustrated as city-to-city travel time. The map shows linkages by road from European cities with more than 50,000 inhabitants to all other European cities of that size up to a distance of 300 minutes (5 hours). Only cross-border relations are illustrated in the maps. Shorter travel times are presented in blue, medium travel times in green to 300 minutes to travel from city A to city B in yellow.