Evaluation of Transport Infrastructures Crossing the Pyrenees - a Sensitive International Border Zone

Evaluation of Transport Infrastructures Crossing the Pyrenees - a Sensitive International Border Zone


J de Oa-Lopez, University of Granada; C Zamorano, A S?hez, Polytechnic University of Madrid, ES



One of the major goals of the European Union is for all its member states to achieve genuine convergence marked by a stable territorial balance capable of guaranteeing harmonious development in the countries comprising the EU, thereby preventing internal economic tensions.

Infrastructure takes on a vital role in this eagerness to achieve genuine convergence lying at the very centre of the European Union aims, and this is accentuated in outlying countries such as Spain, Greece and Ireland, characterised as they are by a substantial lack of competitiveness?precisely owing to their peripheral position?as compared to centrally located states, and this undoubtedly signifies a geographical handicap for these regions.

The Pyrenees forms a major natural barrier between the Iberian Peninsula and the rest of Europe. Unlike the situation with the Alps, the Pyrenees, with the exception of the coastal strips, does not currently possess any significant road or rail infrastructure.

It is the desire of the European Union and Spain to enhance the permeability of the overland transport networks crossing the Pyrenees in order to put a stop to the isolation of the Iberian Peninsula. This is a top priority objective for our country as Spain faces an uncertain future as a result of the following three issues we could identify as key factors:

¥incorporation of PECO member states into the EU; ¥changes in the policy for distributing structural and cohesion funds once these countries have joined the EU; ¥a shift in the centre of gravity of the EU?s economic activity as a result of this incorporation.

In recent years Spain has made great efforts to improve transport infrastructure throughout its national territory. However, in the Pyrenean border it has encountered the problem of a very different infrastructure policy in place where infrastructure development is concerned in the neighbouring country of France. This is delaying and, in some cases, preventing the necessary permeabilization of this massif.

The Pyrenees forms one of the richest and most beautiful natural areas in the whole of Europe involving a wealth of biological and scenic diversity. This great environmental sensitivity is one of the main motives put forward by France for slowing down the development of trans-Pyrenean transport infrastructure.

Aimed at justifying the need to open up cross routes or to permeabilize the Pyrenees, and in order to seek environmentally sustainable solutions to which the French Government is not able to raise objections, a research project is being carried out funded by the Spanish Ministry for Development, which has developed indicators to assess the implementation of infrastructure in sensitive and transborder zones.

The two main aspects to be taken into account in this type of zone are the need to create territorial accessibility and respect for the environment. In order to take both of these two aspects duly into consideration, an overall assessment indicator was created based on specific accessibility and environmental indicators.

These indicators, in turn, were created based on a GIS or Geographic Information System allowing the results to be presented more easily.

These indicators were used to diagnose the current situation and, once different potential scenarios had been input (in the form of the construction of different types of infrastructure), these indicators were applied to evaluate the effects of the infrastructure on accessibility and the environment from an overall and disintegrated angle at both national and regional level.


Association for European Transport