Transport in Europe provides for the movement needs of over 700 million people and associated freight. The political geography of Europe divides the continent into over 50 sovereign states and territories. This fragmentation, along with increased movement of people since the industrial revolution, has led to a high level of cooperation between European countries in developing and maintaining transport networks. Supranational and intergovernmental organisations such as the European Union (EU), Council of Europe and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe have led to the development of international standards and agreements that allow people and freight to cross the borders of Europe, largely with unique levels of freedom and ease.
Road, rail, air and water transportation are all prevalent and important across Europe. Europe was the location of the world’s first railways and motorways and is now the location of some of the world’s busiest ports and airports. The Schengen Area enables border control-free travel between 26 European countries. Freight transportation has a high level of intermodal compatibility and the European Economic Area allows the free movement of goods across 30 states.
Operational high-speed lines in Europe
Main article: Rail transport in Europe
Powered rail transport began in England in the early 19th century with the invention of the steam engine. The modern European rail network spans the entire continent and provides passenger and freight movement. There are significant high-speed rail passenger networks such as the TGV in France and the LAV in Spain. The Channel Tunnel connects the United Kingdom with France, Belgium and thus the whole of the European rail system, and is considered one of the seven wonders of the modern world.
Various methods of rail electrification are used, as well as much unelectrified track. In all European countries, standard gauge is the most important rail gauge except for Russia, Finland and the ex-Soviet states. The European Rail Traffic Management System is an EU initiative to create a Europe-wide standard for train signalling.
Rail infrastructure, freight transport and passenger services are provided by a combination of local and national governments and private companies. Passenger ticketing varies from country to country and service to service. The Eurail Pass is a rail pass for 18 European countries; it is only available for persons who do not live in Europe, Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia. Inter Rail passes allow multi-journey travel around Europe for people living in Europe and surrounding countries.
Despite an extensive road and rail network, most long distance travel within Europe is by air. A large tourism industry also attracts many visitors to Europe, most of whom arrive into one of Europe’s many large international airports. Heathrow Airport, London is the busiest airport in the world by number of international passengers (third busiest overall). The advent of low cost carriers in recent years has led to a large increase in air travel within Europe. Air transportation is now often the cheapest way of travelling between cities. This increase in air travel has led to problems of airspace overcrowding and environmental concerns. The Single European Sky is one initiative aimed at solving these problems.
Sea and river transport
The Port of Rotterdam, Netherlands is the largest port in Europe and one of the busiest ports in the world, handling some 440 million metric tons of cargo in 2013. When the associated Europoort industrial area is included, Rotterdam is by certain measurements the world’s busiest port. Two thirds of all inland water freight shipping within the E.U., and 40% of containers, pass through the Netherlands. Other large ports are the Port of Hamburg in Germany and the Port of Antwerp in Belgium. They are all a part of the so-called “Northern Range”.
The English Channel is one of the world’s busiest seaways carrying over 400 ships per day between Europe’s North Sea and Baltic Sea ports and the rest of the world.
As well as its role in freight movement, sea transport is an important part of Europe’s energy supply. Europe is one of the world’s major oil tanker discharge destinations. Energy is also supplied to Europe by sea in the form of LNG. The South Hook LNG terminal at Milford Haven, Wales is Europe’s largest LNG terminal.