ESPON Conference - Southern Europe at the crossroads: are we making the right decisions about accessibility investments for the future?

Over the last decade, South European regions have seen considerable investments in transport. The efforts to increase and improve the accessibility to markets and public services for citizens and businesses in Bulgaria, Cyprus, Croatia, Italy, Greece, Malta, Portugal, Romania and Spain have benefitted from European funding and lending. Within the period 2007-2013, transport spending in the Southern convergence regions of Greece, Spain, Italy and Portugal alone amounted to 18.7 billion EUR or 23% of the overall budget earmarked for transport by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the Cohesion Fund (CF) for that period. This figure represents 29% of the total ERDF and CF resources that were made available to these regions. Under the broader theme of “Network Infrastructures in Transport and Energy”, 21,5 billion EUR of ERDF and CF funding have been secured for the 9 Southern Member States in the period 2014-2020. In addition, loans worth over 50 billion EUR in total have been made available by the European Investment Bank to leverage the transport and infrastructure investments in the Southern EU regions between 2007 and 2017, reaching 38% of the total lending capacity of the EIB for transport investments across Europe within that period.

What have these investments changed? How is this reflected in the Gross Domestic Product (GDP)? Which regions and transport modes need further attention in Southern Europe? Are we able to effectively recognise network deficiencies, capitalize on infrastructure assets, prevent negative spill-over effects and reduce opportunity costs? The monitoring of accessibility dynamics over time seems to be an indispensable decision support system, mitigating the risk of unbalanced investments.

Yet, measuring accessibility might be a challenging endeavour.  Accessibility indicators are not provided by statistical agencies. They can’t be simply collected but are output of accessibility models. For more than a decade, the European Territorial Observatory Network ESPON has been accompanying transport investment policies by designing accessibility models. ESPON has become the main source for comparative accessibility indicators for European regions, supporting a number of strategic decision-making processes on European, national, regional and local level.

The aim of this transnational conference is to provide cross-modal snapshots, drawing attention to challenge zones for both passengers and freight transport in Southern Europe. It examines different modes of transport: road, rail, air and seaborne. The conference, furthermore, addresses accessibility scenarios for 2030 (road, rail and air) as well as for 2050 (seaborne) and provides insights into the future of instruments for strategic infrastructure investments, particularly the Connecting Europe Facility

The conference will be held in Italian but interpretation into English will be available.


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