Mobility Management


The Interrelation between Transport System and Regional Development

What do the Disparities in Accessibility Mean for Regional Development in the Alps?

There are two options how we can deal with this question:

Firstly, a look at the European level will help to locate the position of the Alpine area in a wider international perspective.

Secondly, a closer look at the interrelation between transport system, accessibility and economic performance should help to provide answers for the regional development within the Alps.

Accessibility Rail / Road, Reference Scenario 2020 in Europe (Source: EUROPEAN COMMISSION 2004)

The figure shows the familiar pattern of the highly accessible European core. The Alpine Regions belong to this core. In this respect most of the Alpine Regions are not peripheral when considering Europe as a whole.
Further Readings & Links

ARE (2003)
This report analyses the spatial effects of traffic infrastructure and gives an overview of the Federal Projects in this Field.

BLFUW et al. (2001)
A report on the "Transnational Pilot Projects for Environmentally Sound Travel Logistics Linked with Electronic Booking and Information Systems in Alpine Tourist Regions".

Another possibility to express the development of accessibility are so called time maps. In time maps the distance between locations is shown in travel time and not in kilometre. The Alpine regions are in the centre of a shrinking space:

When travelling at a uniform speed of 60km/h, the real size of Europe is not changed (Source: SPIEKERMANN & WEGENER 1993)

This image reflects the travel time in 1993. While in this time map, the centre of Europe is drawn together, peripheral regions in Eastern Europe appear farther away (Source: SPIEKERMANN & WEGENER 1993).

A future scenario for 2020 sees the main cities in Western Europe and those in Eastern Europe get closer. In comparison to the situation in 1993, Eastern Europe is drawn towards Central Europe (Source: SPIEKERMANN & WEGENER 1993).

There is a complex system of interrelations and interaction between the transport system and regional development as shown in the figure below.

The interrelations and interactions between transport systems and regional development. Click on the image to enlarge it (Source: ECOPLAN, Büro Widmer 2004)

What are the key messages in the recent theoretical and empirical literature?
  • There is a broad agreement among experts about the positive relation between transport systems and economic development in general.
  • Yet, there is no consensus on distributional effects at the regional level. The transport system can contribute to regional disparities.
  • High accessibility does not guarantee prosperity and economical development, low accessibility does not necessarily hinder development.
The results of recent studies are presented in the following sections.

The IASON-Report on behalf of the European Commission (IASON = Integrated Assessment of Spatial Economic and Network of Transport Projects and Policies --> Glossary) made the following conclusions:

  • In general, network policies, e. g. transport infrastructure improvement, coincide with the cohesion objective, e. g. have a tendency to favour poorer peripheral regions – in relative terms. However, in absolute terms usually the richer and more central regions gain more.
  • In summary, it can be concluded that many transport policies of the past had in a sense an ambiguous impact with regard to spatial distribution: though they have contributed to cohesion, when measured in relative terms, they at the same time have also contributed to widening absolute disparities between central and peripheral regions in Europe (IASON 2004).

Project report of the IASON project (Integrated Assessment of Spatial Economic and Network of Transport Projects and Policies).

Interactions between transport and the economy.

The research project REGALP carried out conclusions on the interrelation between accessibility regional development and cultural landscape (PFREFFERKORN et al. 2005):
  • The correlation between regional gross domestic product and accessibility in Alpine regions is low (0,27). This means that a strong interrelation between regional development and transport system cannot be proved.
  • The regions with the highest accessibility are not those with the highest economic prosperity.
  • Regions dominated by tourism are mainly characterised by very low accessibilities.
  • On the other hand, regions with low gross domestic product are characterized mainly by low accessibility.
The below results indicate that accessibility is but one of several factors of regional economic growth. The impacts of infrastructure investments have to be assessed case by case.

GDP and accessibility in the Alpine regions with highest accessibility:

(Source: Raw data by EURAC and Regalp, adapted by CIPRA)

GDP and accessibility in the Alpine regions with lowest accessibility:

(Source: Raw data by EURAC and Regalp, adapted by CIPRA)

ECOPLAN / WIDMER (2004) state that whether a region benefits from improved transport links mainly depends on:
  • other location factors (land prices, supply of workers and employment opportunities, educational opportunities etc.)
  • Intensity of competition on the local economy
  • transport intensity of local economy
The distributional effects in relation to jobs, migration and competitiveness are often underestimated. In particular weak peripheral regions or social groups can be influenced negatively by the development of the transport system. Due to the special topography and the connected accessibility problems, a high importance of distributional effects for the Alpine regions is assumed.

Report on traffic infrastrucre, tourism behaviour and spatial structures in the Alpine landscape and local and inter-regional accessibility.

REINER (2007)
An article that deals with mountain tourism and analyses the challenges and opportunities for a more sustainable development.

There are only few ex-post studies which analyse the impacts of new transport infrastructure on regional development.

One example is Switzerland’s Vereina Tunnel (Canton Grisons, 19km long), which was inaugurated in 1999 as a state-of-the-art and particularly eco-friendly passenger and motor-rail link. The case study on the spatial impacts of the Vereina tunnel, which connects Klosters with the Lower Engadine is of special interest, because it is located in an Alpine area and leads to a substantial improvement of accessibility of the Engadine region, especially the Lower Engadine. Travel times from Zurich to Lower Engadine are reduced from around 4 hours to around 2 hours 40 minutes. The results are ambiguous:
  • Summer and winter tourism areas benefit from many new day-trippers and weekend visitors. This has created new jobs in the hotel and restaurant sector.
  • In the remote regions of the Lower Engadine, guest numbers have not risen. Nor has there been a notable upswing in other economic sectors such as the building trade.
As regards car traffic reduction the results are disappointing:
  • Although the railway’s car loading system has proved to be en vogue, but there has been no reduction in individual traffic.
  • While freight traffic has partly shifted to rail, transport on the surrounding roads has not decreased.
  • If air pollution levels have improved, it is due not to the railway tunnel but to the more stringent international regulations for car exhaust emissions.
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ARE (2006)
An ex post analysis by the Swiss Federal Office for Spatial Development on the spatial effects of the Vereinatunnel in Grisons.

ARE (2004a)
Summary of the ex-post analysis of the Swiss Federal Office for Spatial Development: Spatial effects of the S-Bahn in Zurich.

ARE (2004b)
Summary of the ex-post analysis of the Swiss Federal Office for Spatial Development: Spatial effects of the traffic infrastructure in the Magadino plain.