Assessing the Long-terms Effects of Transport Infrastructures in Rural Areas
Esther González-González, Dpt. Geography, Urban and Regional Planning. University of Cantabria, Soledad Nogués, Dpt. Geography, Urban and Spatial Planning. University of Cantabria
The aim is to assess the territorial effects of transport infrastructures in rural areas over time to detect the potential solutions for their accessibility challenges. Road development effects in Northwest Spain are studied during the last 20 years.
European and national transport policies identify territorial cohesion as their main goal, normally refer to it at supra-regional level. However, the lack of attention to intra-regional connections, even in large regional areas including the main centres of European countries, has progressively contributed to increase the gap between urban and rural areas over time. Consequently, assessing and understanding transport effects in the less studied rural areas, which cover more than two thirds of the European territory, is essential. Long-term assessments enable the identification of the problems and consequences associated with transport investments in these areas and, as a result, they allow the detection of potential solutions and strategies to confront future challenges related with their accessibility.
This paper aims to provide a greater understanding of the territorial effects of transport infrastructures in rural areas. The paper commences with a review of relevant literature regarding the definition of rural areas in Europe and Spain and their common problems, especially in attention to accessibility issues. Next, the socioeconomic evolution of the Northwest Area of Spain, where about 95% of municipalities are considered rural, is analysed in relation with transport improvements in the area over the last 20 years. The assessment focuses on the calculation of demographic, economic and accessibility indicators and their comparison through regression analyses.
Transport investments in this region have been mainly focused on the implementation of high-capacity roads, while connections among rural municipalities have been very scarce. As a result, while peri-urban areas have been the most benefited by the consecutive transport plans, deep rural areas have shown slight or irrelevant improvements in their accessibility values, undergoing ageing and population and employment losses. We conclude that rather than encouraging the implementation of new high-capacity infrastructures in these regions, regional secondary roads and public transport should be improved, to ensure their access to basic services and revert their regressive inertia, allowing their survival.
Association for European Transport