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Infrastructure - TEN-T - Connecting Europe

Linking East and West

Enlargement: 10 years on - east west connections

The trans-European transport network policy connecting East and West

Good transport connections are vital for a functioning, integrated economic area and for its social and territorial cohesion. A truly integrated Single Market would not be possible without a seamless connection between all its component parts. The Transport Policy has largely contributed to territorial cohesion and to regional development of the Member States that have joined the Union in 2004 and 2007, by improving the accessibility of their regions. The TEN-T policy has constituted the framework to connect transport infrastructure of the "older and newer" Member States with each other and, in coordination with EU Regional Policy, on stimulating, preparing and implementing projects within the newer Member States. Thereby, a great deal of progress has been made in the past 10 years to improve transport connections between the West and the East of Europe.

1. EXAMPLES OF TEN-T ACTION

This part provides summaries of selected EU measures in the field of TEN-T policy - which address different transport modes as well as different areas of action (notably: financing, cross-border coordination, political initiatives):

TEN-T project: "Rail Baltic/Rail Baltica" axis: Warsaw-Kaunas-Riga-Tallinn-Helsinki (priority project n° 27)

The TEN-T Project "Rail Baltica/Rail Baltic" is of vital importance for connecting transport networks between older and newer Member States, between the East and the West of Europe. Its long-term objective is to provide a new high-speed railway line in European gauge through the Baltic States up to Tallinn.

The project started in 2005 from scratch and was originally about a step-by-step improvement of the existing alignment with 1520 mm gauge (common in Russia). The work on the track has continued over the last eight years. In Estonia the work finished at the end of 2011 while in Latvia progress has been made in improving and upgrading several sections. In Lithuania, implementation of the first European gauge sections (1435 mm) has started, and the aim is to bring this new line to Kaunas by 2015.

Pavel Telicka, who was appointed European Coordinator for this project in 2005, has had a considerable impact on progress – in terms of decision-making and implementation. So far, 93 Million € have been granted from EU sources to help advancing this project. As part of the new North Sea – Baltic corridor of the TEN-T core network, further significant opportunities for EU contributions under the "Connecting Europe Facility" have been opened up for the different project sections. Decision-making is steadily advancing, with a political agreement having been reached in 2013 on the building of the new line. Multi-modal connections of the new line – such as with the new port facilities at Vuosaari near Helsinki or with a planned inter-modal terminal at Kaunas – prepare for enhanced transport services, thereby also contributing to regional / economic development.

TEN-T project: Railway axis Paris-Strasbourg-Stuttgart-Wien-Bratislava (priority project n° 17)

The Paris-Strasbourg-Stuttgart-Vienna-Bratislava railway axis has been one of the key east-west oriented TEN-T links in Europe. It crosses very densely populated areas in the centre of Europe. The most important projects along the line are the construction of the "TGV Est" from Paris to Strasbourg which will be finished in 2016, the new line Stuttgart-Ulm which shall be finished in 2021, the improvements along the "Westbahn" in Austria and the building of the new Vienna Railway Station. Especially the latter will significantly improve the connectivity between Germany, Austria and Hungary and beyond. The travelling time from Munich to Budapest was 7h 20 min in 2009 and shall be reduced to 6h 25h by 2015. The station became partly operational in December 2012 for regional and S-Bahn services; it shall be fully operational by December 2014. The new Vienna Railway Station replaces the old "Südbahnhof" and will directly connect the line through Vienna to the major Austrian rail lines. The European coordinator, Professor Péter Balázs, supported the development of the axis by enabling political agreements and funding especially with regards to cross-border, airport and urban connections. The co-funding by the European Commission adds up to € 776.44 million (1995-2015) through the TEN-T budget (€691 million), the European Recovery Plan (€85.4 million) and – in the Slovak Republic – also some contributions from the Cohesion Fund. The line is now part of the new Rhine-Danube Corridor and further funding will be made available. The CEF annex includes for 2014-2020 the option to support studies on high-speed rail including the alignment of the connections between the three cities Wien, Bratislava and Budapest.

TEN-T project: Railway axis Athens–Sofia–Budapest–Vienna–Prague–Nuremberg/Dresden (priority project n° 22)

In many respects the "Railway axis Athens–Sofia–Budapest–Vienna–Prague–Nuremberg/Dresden" has a special place on the Trans–European Transport Network (TEN–T) map, simply on the grounds of its length (3 575 km) and the number of Member States it crosses (seven). Involving three Member States of the 'old European Union' (Germany, Austria and Greece), two Member States from the 2004 enlargement (Czech Republic and Hungary) and the two Member States from the 2007 enlargement,- (Romania and Bulgaria) this project embodies the principle of the trans–European network and illustrates the challenge its integration poses. Ultimately, it aims to connect Central and Eastern Europe better to the North Sea and Baltic Sea coasts. Gilles Savary, who was appointed European Coordinator for this project in 2010, undertook to develop forums for coordination and dialogue between the relevant ministries and infrastructure managers along the route. This type of cooperation, already working well between the Czech Republic, Austria and Germany, had to be fully implemented between Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria and Greece. On 2 December 2010, the Transport Ministers of these four countries signed a Declaration which entailed the organisation of biannual meetings of the ‘PP22 Contact Group’ (involving the European Coordinator as Chairman as well as representatives of the States concerned, the European Commission and the European Investment Bank (EIB). In its work, this group built on comprehensive technical and financial analysis undertaken by external experts. This helped identifying common challenges, priorities and working methods, thereby enhancing the technical and socio–economic understanding of the project and preparing for future investment decisions. This analysis included two studies (funded from the TEN-T budget) which essentially covered the cross-border sections along the railway axis. They both recommended that all States involved should line up their investment strategies to advance this project. These results will, at the same time, be a vital contribution to the development of the multi-modal "Orient / East-Med" core network corridor (of which the former "PP 22" railway project forms an integral part) as one of the backbones of the Union's transport infrastructure policy until 2030.

TEN-T project: Improvement of navigability in the common Bulgarian-Romanian sector of the river Danube

The multimodal TEN-T Core Network Corridor "Rhine-Danube" includes important rail and road connections from the centre of Europe, France and Germany, to the South-East European Union Member States of Bulgaria and Romania. It also comprises the main European inland waterway that links the northern European ports to the Black Sea ports via Rhine Main, Main Canal and Danube. This long inland waterway corridor represents a major water supply for all the riparian States and an important network for freight transportation across the continent. The project dealing with the enhancement of the navigability conditions on the common sector Bulgarian-Romanian started already during the accession period of the two countries; however it received an important development in 2012. In October of that year and under the auspices of the European TEN-T Coordinator for inland waterway, Doctor Karla Peijs, the two governments signed a Memorandum of Understanding for the maintenance of safe navigable conditions of the common Danube sector. Since then working groups have been established and evaluation of the necessary measures is undergoing as well as an evaluation of possible territorial developments for the regions that are crossed by the river, particularly under the conditions of the Connecting Europe Facility programme. With a view to the new TEN-T policy, which sets out objectives and means until 2030, these activities will dovetail with the development of the "Rhine Danube" core network corridor.

TEN-T project: Improving safety and navigation in Europe’s inland waterways

This project, funded under the TEN-T budget, brought 9 Member States from Eastern, Central and Eastern Europe as well as four cooperation partners together, thus acting as a catalyst for further integration of the infrastructure of Europe from east to west. The project also served as a mechanism for deeper cooperation between the Ministries of Transport of beneficiary Member States, namely Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, France, Hungary, The Netherlands, Romania and Slovakia. It aims to significantly contributing to harmonised River Information Services (RIS) implementation at European level.

The establishment of intelligent infrastructure on European rivers, through RIS initiatives, has been promoted in the framework of TEN-T policy since 2002. The "Implementation of River Information Services in Europe" (IRIS) – launched in 2006 and marking a new dimension of coordination and cooperation - was not only the first multinational TEN-T project of its kind but genuinely connected the West with the East across nine older and newer Member States. The original IRIS Europe project having been concluded in 2008, work now continues in the follow-up pilot project IRIS Europe II.

This second project phase focuses on further enhancement and fine-tuning of key RIS technologies, services and applications. Both land infrastructure and on-board equipment were installed as part of the IRIS II projects. In Slovakia, Hungary and Romania around 375 vessels were equipped with Automatic Identification System (AIS) transponders, with a further 60 Romanian vessels being equipped with electronic chart displays. Out of a total cost of 11,6 million €, 50 % were contributed from the TEN-T budget.

This project makes a manifest contribution to connect East and West through improved transport infrastructure. Over and above, it brings forward the implementation of river information services throughout the whole of the European Union, as envisaged by the European Commission's RIS Directive. It thereby enhances safety of inland waterway navigation (e.g. through accurate positioning of vessels), efficiency (e.g. through better journey planning tools) and attractiveness as a sustainable means of transport.

2. FINANCIAL CONTRIBUTION TO TEN-T PROJECTS FROM STRUCTURAL FUNDS

While "direct TEN-T action" (i.e. action under the responsibility of DG MOVE) in the newer Member States largely concentrated on stimulating political decision making processes – especially for major projects of cross-border scope – and at supporting project preparation, structural policy measures of the EU significantly contributed to funding the implementation of TEN-T projects. Overall, with the support of different sources of EU funding, such as the Cohesion Fund, the ERDF and the TEN-T Programme, the 12 newer Member States invested between 2007 and 2013more than 40 billion € in major projects implementing the TEN-T. The EU has been a major actor in these investments, contributing substantially with financial support t high co-funding rates. The table below (all amounts in million €) provides data on the EU contribution for major TEN-T projects for each of the States concerned:

EU contribution in million €
Czech Republic 2217
Estonia 195
Cyprus 16,3
Latvia 476,6
Lithuania 117,2
Hungary 1480,5
Malta 93,7
Poland 13193,5
Slovenia 593,5
Slovakia 1095,7
TOTAL 19482
Bulgaria 1251,7
Romania 3054,7
TOTAL 23788,6

 

3. LOOKING AHEAD

East-West connections require further improvement and they represent a central priority for the new EU transport infrastructure policy. The revision of the trans-European network (TEN-T) policy has shifted the focus from individual projects to creating a network of strategic core-network corridors with multi-modal connections, which will stretch from East to West and from the geographically peripheral-regions to the centre of EU. Out of the nine core-network corridors, seven have a real East-West dimension: Baltic-Adriatic, North Sea-Baltic, Mediterranean, Orient/East Med, Atlantic, North Sea-Mediterranean, Rhine-Danube. A few examples to illustrate the progress in the TEN-T policy:

  • There was no priority project connecting Poland and Germany. Now, there are three connections in the core network (Szczecin-Berlin, Warsaw-Berlin and Dresden-Wroclaw). Warsaw-Berlin is also part of the North Sea–Baltic corridor that stretches between Rotterdam and Tallinn.
  • The German ports were not connected by a priority project to the central European countries (Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Romania). Now this link is part of the Orient/East-Med corridor.
  • Slovakia and Czech Republic were not efficiently connected to southern Germany. Now the two core network links (Prague-Nürnberg-Frankfurt and Prague-München-Stuttgart) are part of the Rhine-Danube corridor.
  • The Danube was a priority project on its own, but limited to the inland waterways. Now the Rhine-Danube corridor will not only cover the Danube, but better connect it to the other inland waterways (Rhine) and include rail and roads to link central Europe to Germany and France.

The TEN-T consists of two layers: a core network to be completed by 2030 and a comprehensive network feeding into this, to be completed by 2050. The core network will be the economic lifeblood of the single market, allowing a real free flow of goods and people around the EU and especially in the new Member States. The core TEN-T network will be supported by a comprehensive network of routes, feeding into the core network at regional and national level. The aim is to ensure that progressively, and by 2050, the great majority of Europe's citizens and businesses will be no more than 30 minutes' travel time from this comprehensive network. Equally, TEN-T standards, to be deployed across the whole network, are homogeneous and ambitious and will leverage on the enhanced accessibility, in order to boost the competitiveness, notably of the more peripheral regions of the EU.

The new Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) is a very good example of European 'added value' that the EU budget can deliver, especially in the newer Member States. The development of the infrastructure of high European added-value through the CEF will contribute to strengthening the Single Market. The main expected positive effects are the free movement of goods and services, overcoming market segmentation, offering greater choice for consumers, fostering territorial cohesion. Investing in infrastructure also constitutes a highly effective engine of job creation, firstly related to infrastructure works – for construction, mechanical engineering and business services -, but also induced by the indirect economic effect of the use of the new infrastructure. In order to support the development of the TEN-T in the Member States eligible to the Cohesion Fund, €11.3bn have been transferred from the Cohesion Fund to the Connecting Europe Facility (for a total of €26.25bn available for the next financial period 2014–2020 for all Member States). This amount is to be spent as a complement to the Cohesion Fund, for projects of high European added value, such as cross-border sections and bottlenecks on the core network, especially in the rail and inland waterway sectors. This mechanism will reinforce the connections between the Eastern and the Western part of the continent, thereby fostering the European territorial integration and increasing the competitiveness of the cohesion Member States.