Over the years, road and rail connections within Europe have expanded, become faster and have been optimised to accommodate a significant increase in passenger and freight streams. Many of these constructions were part of a European Union-wide collective: the Trans-European Transport Network. The love of travel is in the blood of many geographers, but it usually still takes a lot of time. Further improvements are needed, and they are on their way.
The Trans-European Transport Network
From Scandinavia to Italy and from the Iberian Peninsula to the Balkan, the Trans-European Transport Network, or TEN-T, is a planned network of roads, railways, airports and waterways to strengthen the logistics within Europe. TEN-T is part of the overarching Trans-European Networks (TENs), which includes not only policies on transportation but also on energy and telecommunication. The TENs policy was already established over half a decade ago in 1957, with its primary target being the creation of an internal market and the reinforcement of economic and social cohesion within the European Union.
At the time of writing, there are nine key corridors on which the TEN-T is based, each one running through various countries and ranging between approximately 1.000 to 5.000 kilometres. The current most extended connection, the ‘Scandinavian–Mediterranean Corridor’ (Scan-Med Corridor), is a large north-south link through Europe, which will receive a significant update in the upcoming years.
The Scandinavian–Mediterranean Corridor
Running from Helsinki to Valetta, the Scan-Med Corridor is a key element of the web that TEN-T is for European travel. Linking the likes of Rome and Naples with Munich, Hamburg and Copenhagen, the route’s most challenging geographical obstacle is the Alpes. Still, on the northern end of the trip, the sea is a restriction with its own problematic characteristics.
Brenner Base Tunnel
Currently, the Brenner Pass is one of the most important linkages between the areas north and south of the Alpes. However, major construction works have been going on since 2007 to create the Brenner Base Tunnel, a 55-kilometre rail tunnel under the Brenner Pass, which upon its completion, scheduled in 2032, will cut the travel times between Innsbruck, Austria, on the north side of the Alpes and Bolzano, Italy on the south side, in more than half. Together with the Gotthard-Monte Ceneri axis in Switzerland and the Lyon-Turin rail connection, the Brenner Corridor will further improve the network of European high-capacity rail links.
Fehmarn Belt tunnel
When travelling by car or train from mainland Europe to the picturesque Copenhagen, one has the choice between two options: take one of the ferries connecting northern Germany with the southern island of Denmark, or travel all the way west around the Fehmarn Belt, one of the many seas, belts and straights surrounding Denmark. But, the ferry takes 45 minutes, excluding waiting and boarding times, and the 500-kilometre detour will set you back even longer.
Therefore, two options were explored to establish a second direct connection between Germany and Denmark: the first one was the Gedser–Rostock bridge, an enormous 45-kilometre bridge that would enable a direct link between Berlin and Copenhagen, and which would also have been the longest bridge over a body of water in the world. However, too many obstacles stood in the way of realising this project.
The second option was a connection over, or under, the Fehmarn Belt, an 18-kilometre-wide strip of water northwest of Hamburg. Due to its unpractical busy shipping route, the north-south orientation (which is perpendicular to the prevailing wind direction), and the poor soil conditions under the 25 meters of water, a bridge, which might be the most logical option, was ruled out.
Two potential constructions remained: a bored tunnel or an immersed one. Due to price constraints, the first option was dismissed, so the plan for one of the longest immersed tube tunnels in the world was born. The new tunnel means a leap in efficiency for the traffic between Germany and Denmark, as it will accommodate both a highway and high-speed rail. The tunnel construction is currently taking place, and the tunnel itself is expected to open in 2029.
These two examples are just the tip of the iceberg concerning the continuous improvement of the Trans-European Transport Network. In the future, even more connections will be established, and existing ones will be further enhanced. This way, travelling through Europe will become even more attractive than it already is!