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“Urban nodes – accelerators of sustainable and balanced regional development?”

Our #EURegionsWeek workshop on 11 October 2022 explored how cities and regions can use TEN-T policy to build sustainable urban-rural partnerships and empower the green transition.

We need reliable and sustainable mobility solutions in the functional urban areas of urban nodes as well as the overall flow of goods and passengers in rural areas. This workshop discussed how to best build urban-rural partnerships for sustainable mobility systems throughout Europe with a focus on the Scan-Med corridor and member regions of the Scandria Alliance.

The session started with an introduction by moderator Wiktor Szydarowski, Director of ESPON EGTC, and a welcome statement by  Guido Beermann, Minister of Infrastructure and Federal State Planning, Land Brandenburg and Chairman of the Scandria Alliance.

Minister Beermann emphasised the need for a functional approach to urban nodes to unleash the potential of effective transport connections for regional development, urban-rural partnerships and the green transition. He stressed that collaboration of cities and regions across borders will play a key role as a response to the increased importance of urban nodes in the upcoming new TEN-T regulation. Minister Beermann emphasized that the Scandria Alliance provides an arena for collaboration of cities and regions along the ScanMed corridor.

The following high-level representatives of four member regions of the Scandria Alliance discussed the replication potential of local and regional connectivity measures, the importance of multi-level governance approaches as well as the role of geography in a subsequent panel discussion:

  • Hanna E. Marcussen, Vice Mayor for Urban Development, City of Oslo,
  • Manuela Hahn, Deputy Head of Joint Spatial Planning Department Berlin-Brandenburg,
  • Heikki Saarento, Planning Director, Regional Council of Southwest Finland,
  • Åsa Ågren Wikström, Member of Västerbotten County Council.

Key take away messages from this panel discussion are:

  • There is no “one -size fits all solution” for connectivity measures of European urban nodes. Concrete solutions need to be based on the local conditions. However, cooperation across borders and building networks and projects that enable these solutions are important prerequisites for the quality and durability of the connectivity measures.
  • Achieving the sustainable development and climate goals and building a climate-smart transport network are complex tasks that require a multilevel governance approach to be successful. Pro-active regional authorities, good stakeholder relations and local and regional strategies that are in line with those on the national and EU levels are important parts of the recipe.
  • The functional urban area approach is a helpful tool to achieve a more balanced and sustainable development. However, structural and size differences as well as the specific needs of cross-border regions need to be taken into account to make the most of the approach for the regions. Both formal and informal cooperation formats are needed for this.

A polycentric approach and governance stand out as important in order to foster reliable and sustainable mobility in functional urban areas. The audience interaction confirmed cooperation as the key feature for a sustainable and balanced regional development.

Watch the recording of the workshop here:

Quotes from the workshop:

Åsa Ågren Wikström, Member of Västerbotten County Council:
“The special conditions of urban nodes in the cross-border regions are currently not adequately recognised. As a politician representing the Kvarken region, which is the strongest non-capital cross-border region in the High North, I urge the representatives on regional, national and EU levels to include a special focus on the cross-border aspects in the preparation of the Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan (SUMP). The full recognition of cross-border urban nodes is a prerequisite for the successful completion of the goals of the TEN-T core and comprehensive networks.”

Guido Beermann, Minister of Infrastructure and Federal State Planning of Land Brandenburg:
“We will not only see a larger number of urban nodes in the future. We will also see new and stricter requirements that need to be fulfilled in these functional urban areas. I am convinced that cities and regions will tackle this challenge if they work together across borders to learn from each other. This is why the mission of the Scandria Alliance is to provide an arena for collaboration along the longest European transport corridor.”

Manuela Hahn, Deputy Head of Joint Spatial Planning, Department Berlin-Brandenburg:
“The functional urban area approach is useful for the Capital Region Berlin-Brandenburg. It helps us to achieve a more balanced, more polycentric and more sustainable development of our monocentric region with the metropolis Berlin at its heart.”

Heikki Saarento, Planning Director, Regional Council of Southwest Finland:
Regional Council of Southwest Finland is a strong supporter of the functional urban area approach. Cooperation between municipalities is the key for creating sustainable mobility solutions within functional urban areas, and for achieving balanced regional development. Sometimes differences in size and resources between municipalities can pose a challenge for cooperation. The example and driving force of the central city is therefore needed.

More information and the recording of the session are also available through this link.