Europe’s corridors

The EU’s 495 million inhabitants are not evenly distributed over the continent: Some countries and regions are more densely populated than others. Examples of densely populated regions are the Benelux countries, the region of Germany immediately bordering them as well as England, and northern Italy. Traffic flows are closely related to population density. Some key sources of traffic are industrial companies (for example, the automotive industry), mining operations, as well as harbors and airports for import and export goods. The main destinations are the cities and urban areas, energy supply companies, as well as ports and other transshipment points.

Cross-border traffic

Source: EU Commission, Policy for TEN, 11/2004

A graphic from an EU source highlights where the most important European traffic flows are expected to be by the year 2020. Passenger and freight traffic have been combined, and one passenger equated with one metric ton of freight. The diagram shows the great significance of international (i.e. cross-border) traffic in Central Europe and through the South-East corridor.

Routes with a proportion of international traffic of more than 50 percent are the following:

  • Hinterland transports serving ARA* ports and traffic through the Benelux countries

  • Trans-Alpine traffic

  • West-East traffic through the Baltic states (port hinterland traffic to Russia)

  • North-South traffic through Poland

  • West-East traffic on the Czech Republic-Slovakia-Hungary corridor and farther eastwards

* Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Antwerp

Transport volumes

Source: UIRR Traffic Flows 2007

Of course, the flows of these goods depend heavily on the types of freight being transported. This is shown using the example of the growth market for intermodal and combined traffic (CT), where the means of transport for the freight (containers, for example) changes one or more times along the route. Strong concentration points for these forms of traffic are maritime and inland ports as well as inland container terminals and other distribution centers.

The leading routes in terms of demand are as follows*:

  • Germany - Italy, with nearly 300,000 consignments in each direction, and

  • Belgium - Italy, with over 100,000 consignments in each direction.

Demand on the following routes is in the high five-digit range*:

  • Austria - Germany (about 75,000/56,000 consignments)

  • Germany - Poland (about 67,000/46,000 consignments)

  • Austria - Italy (about 47,000/44,000 consignments)

* This analysis according to route is based on the data for consignments per year

Causes for the development

Source: TREND Project

Combined traffic on the European South-East corridor also continues to grow in importance. This growth is being driven by the economic relations between Europe and Turkey, for example, by important ports on the Black Sea such as Constanţa, and the economic development of the new EU member states. That’s why the EU-funded TREND project defined the main freight traffic corridors in line with the main flows of goods.


Rail freight transport is also beginning to gain in importance far beyond Europe. In transports between China and the EU, there are products such as laptops for the Christmas trade period for which transport by ship is too slow and air transport too expensive. Naturally, the demands placed on the interoperability of trains are enormous.

Consequence for locomotives

Interoperable locomotives should be able to serve the main routes of present and future growth regions, and should ideally be designed and pre-equipped for this use. Cross-border single and multisystem models are available with the new Vectron. This intelligent train-protection concept allows great flexibility, because retrofits for additional countries are easily implemented.

Besides international rail traffic becomes increasingly important, the significance of purely national transport on rail is also increasing, especially due to the growing environmental awareness of national government authorities. Even if the ecological benefits of rail transport are undisputed, especially on long routes, the choice falls only on rail transport if economic advantages can be generated as well, particularly in competition with road transport. Locomotives should therefore not carry any superfluous and expensive systems, and price and performance should be optimized for the needs of the particular country and customer. The new Vectron offers very inexpensive single-system variants for national operators that can be upgraded later to interoperable multisystem locomotives.

The Trans-European Network (TEN)

The idea of the Trans-European Network (TEN) arose in the late 1980s as a prerequisite for creating an integrated European market. The underlying idea was that flexible passenger and freight traffic is difficult to realize without a corresponding network infrastructure for energy, telecommunications and transport.

The object of a trans-European transport network (TEN-T) is to ensure an efficient and reliable transport system by creating a standardized, multimodal network with regard to infrastructure, vehicles and traffic management. The network comprises transports by air, water, rail and road. The EU Commission has defined 30 prioritized projects (PP1-30) for completion by 2020.

The prioritized projects include:

  • 18 projects in the area of rail links

  • 3 mixed projects in the rail-road area

  • 2 inland waterway projects

With these projects, the Commission is sending clear signals in the direction of environmentally sustainable transport systems.

Degree of completion of TEN corridors

Some of the major projects have already been successfully completed, for example the Øresund Link between Sweden and Denmark (2000) and the Betuwe Route between Rotterdam and the German border (2007). Completion of other projects is imminent. However, although most routes are already in service today, much still remains to be done in the area of infrastructure in order to utilize the full potential of rail-based traffic. The rolling stock (i.e. locomotives), on the other hand, must enable technical operation on the defined TEN-T rail networks today as well as in the future. The Vectron was designed to serve the TEN-T routes of continental Europe, too.