Methodological Proposal to Determine the Improvement of Social Cohesion Before Building a New Infrastructure: the Case of Mainland Spain Municipalities
José Antonio Gutiérrez Gallego, University of Extremadura, José Manuel Naranjo Gómez, University of Extremadura, Francisco Javier Jaraiz Cabanillas, University of Extremadura
The new High-Speed Rail corridors and dual carriageways specified in 2012-2024 Infrastructucture, Transport and Housing Plan will improve or decrease the existing social cohesion among all non-insular Spanish municipalities.
The aim of this study is to classify and identify municipalities whose social cohesion will improve or worsen after the construction of new motorways and high-speed rail corridors, as proposed in the 2012-2014 Infrastructure, Transport and Housing Plan (PITVI in Spanish). To this end, indicators of structural backwardness and potential territorial accessibility are used to illustrate the results with Geographic Information Systems (GIS). The results reveal ill-defined territorial patterns regarding the new infrastructures’ positive or negative impact, showing that many municipalities with geographic and demographic disadvantages may not improve their situations. The methodological proposal efficiently characterises social cohesion before the construction of infrastructure.
The methodology presented in this paper can be used for future studies that, in addition to examining road and rail transport, also address other modes of transport, such as aircraft (linked to the high-quality road network through airports). Another aspect of the study is that the use of socioeconomic indicators and accessibility, together with the implementation of the analytical tools of the GIS’s own networks, enables efficiently and correctly analysing the impacts of new motorways and rail corridors set in PITVI on social cohesion, which in turn allows directing fair distribution of investments and transport services. Furthermore, applying this methodology prior to an infrastructure’s execution increases the ability to detect a priori large changes, its usefulness for decision-makers and policy-makers and its application in future infrastructure plans.
As a result of the foregoing, accessibility is one of the main objectives of national transport policies. The greatest degree of socioeconomic development is traditionally associated with regions with greater accessibility, while the lack of accessibility is related to peripheral regions characterised by significant problems in accessing economic markets and their low socioeconomic dynamism. Therefore, taking into account that changes in the transport system have an immediate impact on accessibility transmitted through infrastructure and transport services, these changes can affect the spatial locations of different socioeconomic activities in the long term.
Specifically, in the space analysed, a certain predominance of municipalities where the deployment of new ground infrastructures would have negative effects on social cohesion can be seen in central and southern Spain (Extremadura, Castilla La Mancha and Murcia). In these areas, there are backward or potentially backward municipalities and action must be prioritised to avoid an increased comparative gap with others. However, it is true that there are other municipalities where the deployment of infrastructure would have a positive effect.
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