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Transport Infrastructure Development

Transport is vital to the well-functioning of economic activities and a key to ensuring social well-being and cohesion of populations. Transport ensures everyday mobility of people and is crucial to the production and distribution of goods. Adequate infrastructure is a fundamental precondition for transport systems. In their endeavour to facilitate transport, however, decision-makers in governments and international organizations face difficult challenges. These include the existence of physical barriers or hindrances, such as insufficient or inadequate transport infrastructures, bottlenecks and missing links, as well as lack of funds to remove them. Solving these problems is not an easy task. It requires action on the part of the governments concerned, actions that are coordinated with other governments at international level. 

The UNECE Governments have long-standing experience and expertise in the development of coherent international transport networks in Europe. They have created four main transport network agreements aimed at the development of coherent networks for road, rail, inland water and combined transport respectively. The UNECE transport network agreements include:

1. The European Agreement on Main International Traffic Arteries (AGR) provides UNECE Governments with the international legal framework for the construction and development of a coherent international road network with a view to the development of international road transport and traffic throughout the UNECE region. The AGR defines the E road network, consisting of the arteries channelling major international road traffic flows in Europe, and the infrastructure parameters to which those arteries should conform. The AGR is constantly kept under review and updated whenever necessary to adapt it to new political and transport developments, such as the need for new roads in new States or those created by new traffic flows. It underwent a major revision in the early 90’s following the fall of the Iron Curtain in order to take into account the new East-West traffic flows.  It has undergone another major revision in recent years in order to also include the international roads of the countries in the Caucasus and Central Asia.  States that become Contracting Parties to the AGR commit themselves to its implementation, including the construction or upgrading of the E-roads in their territories, within the framework of their national investment programmes, although they are given complete latitude as to the timing for the completion of construction works. To date, 33 UNECE Member States have become Contracting Parties to the AGR.

2. The European Agreement on Main International Railway Lines (AGC) similarly provides the legal and technical framework for the development of a coherent international rail network in the region. The AGC identifies the rail lines of major international importance, the E rail network, and defines the infrastructure parameters to which they should conform. It defines infrastructure parameters for two categories of lines: those already existing and those to be newly constructed. The latter are again divided into lines for goods and passenger traffic and others for passenger traffic only. The AGC is also revised whenever necessary to take account of political and transport changes in Europe. It has undergone a major revision in recent years in order to also include the international rail networks of the Caucasus and Central Asian countries. In becoming Contracting Parties to the AGC, European States commit themselves to its implementation, including the construction or the upgrading of the E-rail lines in their territories, within the framework of their national programmes but without any time constraints. 24 UNECE Member States are Parties to the AGC.

3. The European Agreement on Important International Combined Transport Lines and Related Installations (AGTC) provides the technical and legal framework for the development of efficient international combined road/rail transport infrastructure and services.  Combined road/rail transport comprises the transport of containers, swap bodies and entire trucks on railway wagons to and from especially equipped terminals.  The AGTC determines all important European railway lines used for international combined transport, identifies all terminals, border crossing points, ferry links and other installations important for international combined transport services. It also establishes internationally acceptable infrastructure standards for those lines and related combined transport installations, and prescribes internationally acceptable performance parameters of trains and combined transport installations and equipment. European States who become Contracting Parties to the AGTC, commit themselves to its implementation, including the construction or the upgrading of the railway lines and related combined transport installations in their territories, within the framework of their national programmes but without any time constraints. The AGTC entered into force on 20 October 1993. To date, 26 UNECE Member States have become Parties to the AGCT.

4. The European Agreement on Main Inland Waterways of International Importance (AGN) establishes the internationally agreed European network of inland waterways and ports as well as the uniform infrastructure and operational parameters to which they should conform.  The geographical scope of the E waterways network, consisting of navigable rivers, canals and coastal routes extends from the Atlantic to the Ural, connecting 37 countries and reaching beyond the European region.  By acceding to the AGN, Governments commit themselves to the development and construction of their inland waterways and ports of international importance in accordance with the uniform conditions agreed upon and within their investment programmes. The AGN entered into force on 26 July 1999.  To date, 13 UNECE Member States have become Parties to the AGN.


© United Nations Economic Commissions for Europe – 2013