Baltic Sea Region Territorial Monitoring System

Accessibility potential by rail

Indicator definition

This indicator is defined as the number of people that can be reached by train, where the attractiveness of destinations is defined by their population size, subject to the rail travel time to reach them.

Indicator importance

This indicator measures the market potential and locational advantage of a city or region.


Generally, regions in the European core have the highest values. However, instead of forming a plateau of high accessibility like for roads, regions with top accessibility for rail are forming corridors along high-speed rail links. High-speed rail also brings very high ac-cessibility to regions outside the European core, for instance in France to Tours and Lyon and Marseille, or in Germany to Berlin. Below average accessibility by rail can be found in Ireland, Spain, Portugal, southern Italy and most regions of the new member states. Low-est accessibility by rail is located in the northernmost parts of the Nordic countries, the Baltic States and most regions of Romania, Bulgaria and Greece. Even more pronounced compared to road accessibilities, there are significant disparities within countries, in partic-ular for those countries which have high-speed train services (Germany, France, Belgium, and Italy).

For many countries such as Slovakia, Slovenia, Hungary, Ireland, or East European coun-tries, even the most central regions are clearly below the European average, often even clearly below 50% of the European average (Bulgaria, Baltic States, Norway, Portugal, Greece, or Finland).

In the BSR only East Germany and Western regions of Poland yield above-average acces-sibilities. In this respect, all other BSR regions must be considered peripheral or even very peripheral, since train travel times to major European agglomerations are too long.

Significant increases to accessibility by rail in the period 2001 to 2011 took place in almost all regions in Europe, except for East European regions. Regions in southern France and southern Italy, and regions in Spain and Portugal benefit from improved high-speed rail networks, so as regions in Ireland and Greece from general improvements. In the BSR, regions north of Stockholm made the biggest jumps in accessibility through improvements to the northernbound railway link.

For all regions in Europe, disparities remained stable between 2001 and 2011. An analysis by type of region, however, revealed interesting details: while disparities for urban re-gions and for predominantly rural regions close to a city increased, there was a clear trend towards convergence for intermediate remote regions and for predominantly rural remote regions, but of course disparities for remote regions remained highest compared to the other types of regions. Increases in disparities for urban regions may be counter-intuitive at a first glance; however, recalling that not all urban regions were connected to the high-speed rail networks at the same time, the accessibility of urban regions without high-speed services falls behind those urban regions with high-speed services.