Spatial and Transport Development in European Corridors - Example Corridor 22, Hamburg - Athens

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Infrastructure policy has to affect transport carriers and regions equally, and to show a clear commitment to prioritising both the planning preparation and the implementation of action concepts for the main European axes. There is therefore a demand for the integrated investigation of transport and spatial development for future sustainable infrastructure policies. A large-scale applied infrastructure policy has not yet been initiated. Neither has it been possible to shift a significant share of goods transport from the roads to the rails or to significantly increase the proportion of public transport in total person transport. Settlement development is still land-use intensive and based on the automobile, contradicting sustainable spatial development concepts.

Until recently, the main obstacle to better coordinated infrastructure development in Europe could be seen as an institutional deficit, since no institution at the European, national or regional level had a comprehensive overview of the challenges to be overcome. However, the new EGTC Committee (European Grouping of Territorial Cooperation) is expected to provide this in the future. Its central task will be to bring the strong and increasing imbalance of goods transport in harmony with that of passenger transport. In order to do so, the European continent needs to achieve a better distribution of flows of maritime global goods transport and address its overburdened hinterland connections.

The Orient / East-Med Corridor, Hamburg – Athens, is of particular interest due to its high relevance for passenger and commercial transport (especially the Greek harbours of Athens and Thessaloniki as well as the Adriatic harbours). It further provides an example of genuine infrastructural deficits such as missing links and bottlenecks. Once established, the Corridor will connect the eastern Member States of the expanded EU with a main railway axis. The affected parts of completed route sections will be built through financial support from the ISPA Programme (Structure Political Instrument to Prepare for Joining the EU).

Finalising the Corridor investment project will create a standardised railway network built to the same norms throughout. At the eastern end, the network divides into two branch lines, one leading to the harbours of Constanta on the Black Sea and the other to Thessaloniki and Athens. The project is expected to lead to an increase in railway capacity, especially in goods transport. At the same time, travel times and costs for goods and passenger travel could sink considerably. A rise of 25 % to 50 % in cross-border transport between Member States is expected.

Aims and research questions

Methodological challenges are posed by the variety of planning cultures found along the corridor and interrelated obstacles to communication, participation and cooperation. Taking a problem-oriented approach, the IAK could analyse the corridor as a test-bed and spatial research lab, bridging the missing link between planning theory and practice.
With regard to the aspired EU membership of Serbia and the recent economic downturn in Greece, the corridor could make a sustainable contribution to territorial cohesion and strengthen ties to this part of Europe. The IAK seeks to address political decision makers (EU, nation states), regional policymakers, planners, practitioners and scientists by:

  • providing scientifically based, important overviews,
  • identifying hot spots / bottlenecks,
  • drafting an integrated Strategy for the Corridor,
  • exchanging knowledge and information with the Corridor Platform / Corridor Coordinator.

In addition to advancing the spatial and transport development of the Orient / East-Med Corridor, the following key spatial science questions are of special interest:

  • What contribution can be made to European cohesion by a large-scale strategy for creating the integrated spatial and transport development of a highly productive transnational rail connection between Hamburg and Athens?
  • How can the Orient / East-Med Corridor be evaluated with regard to energy and climate, and how would the construction of this trans-European corridor contribute to balanced and sustainable transport and infrastructure development in Europe?
  • What methods, instruments and processes are appropriate for developing large-scale strategies for integrated spatial and transport development?
  • How should actor-suitable recommendations be developed at the European, national, regional and local levels, and what would an exemplary recommendation look like?