Airports in Western Europe


Austria has a relatively well-developed transport system, which, however, has come under heavy strain due to an increasing number of cars and increasing transit traffic between neighboring countries. The Austrian railway network covers 5,800 km (2017), and train travel per inhabitant is surpassed in Europe only by Switzerland. The road network covers 133 600 km, of which about 1,800 km is motorway. Air traffic is dominated by Austrian Airlines (AUA). Freight transport is mostly by road (62 percent), followed by rail (23 percent) and pipelines (14 percent).

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Traffic through the Tyrol has been regulated by agreements between Austria and the EU (before Austria joined the EU). With the extension of the railway, road traffic will be transferred to trains. The increasing transit in the east-west direction has created traffic problems in the Vienna area.


Belgium has a well-developed transport system, and the road and rail networks are among the densest in the world. The national road network covers 152 200 km, of which 1,700 km are highways. Seven European roads cross the country. Belgium’s railway network (3,200 km, of which 2 156 km is electrified) comprises parts of the Ostend-Cologne-Berlin-Moscow and Copenhagen-Cologne-Paris stretches.

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The Belgian canal system is not as extensive as the Netherlands, but is still important for bulk transport within the country. The canal network, modernized during the 1960’s, links Antwerp, Brussels, Charleroi, Namur, Ghent and Liège. The Albert Canal, which crosses Kempen, has meant a lot to Antwerp, whose port is one of the world’s largest and Europe’s largest freight ports ranked by Countryaah. In addition to the country of Belgium, it also serves large parts of France and Germany. Other important ports are in Ghent, Bruges and Zeebrugge. Ferry services to the UK take place mainly via Ostend.

Brussels has Belgium’s largest airport in terms of international traffic, but Antwerp and Oostende airports also have international traffic.



France has Europe’s largest rail network, 29,239 km (2008). The closest Swiss and Austrian are the French most trains in Europe, averaging just over 1,100 km per person per year. The French state railways, SNCF (Société Nationale des Chemins de Fer Français), have also built special railways for express trains, TGV (train à grande vitesse), on the most frequented lines. This has made it possible to successfully compete with domestic flights. However, since the mid-1970’s, railways have lost about 50 per cent of road traffic to freight traffic. Today, this cargo handling is about twice the size of rail. This is due in part to the large investments in improvements to the road network with a strong expansion of the motorway network.

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The French road network covered 1 million km in 2008. The French motorways are for the most part taxed. Car traffic and the parking situation in the major cities, especially Paris, can be described as almost chaotic.

Sea transport

France also has Europe’s largest system of canals, but this is outdated and designed primarily for smaller tonnage. The volume of goods transported by boat is considerably smaller than in the Netherlands, Germany and Belgium.

Air traffic

With its three major airports Charles-de-Gaulle, Orly and Le Bourget, Paris has the second largest passenger traffic and the largest freight traffic in Western Europe.


Germany has a tight and differentiated transport system, especially in the western part. This is a result of both the large population and the large foreign trade, and the location in the middle of Europe, which makes Germany a transit country for many neighboring countries. Railways, rivers and canals played an important role during the industrial expansion of the 19th and early 1900’s and are still of greater importance than in most other countries. Extensive highway construction started already in the early 1930’s, and in 1942 Germany had more than 330 km of such roads.

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In West Germany, transport networks improved after 1950 and motorway construction continued. In East Germany, transport investments focused on rail links while road maintenance was neglected. Only a few cross-border connections existed between the two countries. After 1990, the two transport systems were successively linked and major investments were made to improve transport opportunities in eastern Germany. Parts of the older railway network were closed in the east and the railway companies in eastern and western Germany were merged in 1994 when Deutsche Bahn (DB) was formed. Parts of the company were privatized in 2008. On longer distances, ICE (InterCityExpress) trains run at speeds that can reach over 300 km / h. Transit traffic with rail freight through Germany is extensive and in the Maschen at Hamburg lies Europe’s largest ranger farm.

The German road network has very high standards almost everywhere, both the motorways (the Autobahn) and the national roads (the Bundesstrassen). The motorway network consists mainly of north-south and east-west connections and at the end of the 00’s covered about 12 400 km. The highways are built for high speeds and just over half of that road network has free speed, although 130 km / h is recommended as the highest speed. In 2008, there were 558 passenger cars per 1,000 residents in Germany. Intensive road traffic poses serious environmental problems and in various ways governments have sought to curb the increase in traffic on the roads. Tolls are not common, but since 2005 there have been motorway charges for the heaviest trucks. In this way, it is hoped that freight transport will to a greater extent go by rail.

About 20 per cent of all freight traffic within Germany takes place on canals and rivers. There are about 7,500 km of navigable inland waterways, and large quantities of goods are transported on interconnected barges. The most important waterway by far is the Rhine with tributaries, and it is also of great importance for German foreign trade via Rotterdam in the Netherlands. Also important are the three east-west canals: the Kiel canal between the Baltic and the North Sea, the Mittelland canal between the central Elbe and the Ruhr area and the Main-Danube canal through Hesse and Bavaria.

The main port for river traffic is Duisburg on the Rhine and the largest German ports for international traffic are Hamburg, Bremerhafen and Wilhelmshafen on the North Sea and Rostock-Überseehafen on the North Sea.

The high-speed trains and the dense highway network have meant that the flight has relatively little significance for domestic travel. This is all the more important for international connections and Germany has 18 international airports (2010). By far the busiest is the Frankfurt am Main airport, which is one of the three most important nodes in the European airline. Next are Munich, Düsseldorf, Hamburg, Cologne-Bonn and the two Tegel and Schönefeld airports in Berlin. Lufthansa is the leading airline.


The transport network is concentrated around the capital, making it easy to travel from east to west, but not from north to south. In total there are 96,000 km of roads, but only 200 km are motorways. The rail network covers 3,200 km, of which 1,872 km is wide-gauge (track width 1,600 mm). Four international airports are: Collinstown (in Dublin), Cork, Knock and Shannon. The main port cities are Dublin (with Dún Laoghaire south of Dublin), Rosslare and Cork.

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Despite the mountainous terrain, Switzerland has a well-developed transport network for both road and rail traffic. Impressive bridge and tunnel construction connects the country’s various parts and facilitates long-distance traffic. Alongside the state railway company, there are a number of private lanes, mainly in the alpine areas. The central location in Europe has meant that Switzerland has a lot of transit traffic, and with restrictions the heavy truck traffic is reduced by transfers to a combined truck and rail system. In 2015, the rail network amounted to 5,700 km.

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Important international airports are located in Zurich, Bern and Geneva. Basel on the Rhine is a significant river port.


The Netherlands is very much a transport country. As much as 4 percent of the Netherlands area is made up of roads and railways.

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Despite the well-developed motorway network, the country has major problems with traffic congestion, mainly around Amsterdam and Rotterdam. The major work to build flood barriers in the south-west Netherlands (the “Delta Project”) was completed in 1987 and has meant new road links.

Several new railways have been built, including from the Schipholf airport to The Hague and Amsterdam and from Amsterdam to Almere and Lelystad on the Flevolandpoldern in the IJsselmeer. The Dutch railways have a well-developed network, and proper investments have been made in the rail-bound city traffic. The metro is located in Amsterdam and Rotterdam, modern tramway systems in the four largest cities.

Schiphol, located on the old seabed, is Europe’s fourth largest airport. Rotterdam has one of the world’s largest ports measured in managed goods.