- Politics and Social Issues
Europe at a Crossroads
Infrastructure is the road to improving life in Western Europe
Europe at a crossroads
Europe seems to be in a state of economic flux. With the addition of the countries formerly part of the Soviet Bloc a whole new economic venue has been opened up, the question now seems to be how to integrate these countries into Western Europe not only economically but also in regards to their infrastructure. Currently the European Union has four basic freedoms that it applies in its goal to create a single market system; the free movement of goods, services, people, and capital. There are however, several problems that must be overcome before these ideals will be not only applicable across the continent but also economical. Once these problems are overcome the European economy will have a much better chance of succeeding and flourishing.
When the EU was formed each country had its own transportation infrastructure and its own way of maintaining it. Now these same countries must find ways to improve roadways and railways in order to remove bottlenecks and congestion, improve the airline communication system so that it is homogeneous across the continent, improve public and mass transportation so people will an incentive to leave their cars at home thus helping to reduce congestion and pollution, and find a way to pay for the maintenance of this infrastructure. The solutions to these problems will reduce the logistic problems many companies are running into when it comes to getting their products to the consumer.
Many solutions are currently being looked at, most could be fairly easily instituted in Western Europe. The countries that have been admitted to the EU more recently would require more work as their transportation infrastructure tends to be farther behind. The most promising solutions involve streamlining the air traffic control and railway networks between countries, make moving freight via alternative modes such as railways and short-sea inland waterways more attractive, charge users of each transport system directly for the use, and encourage combination traveling and transporting. Some of these solutions are already in use. An Italian ferry company is able to haul trucks from Genoa to Barcelona in about twelve hours, which allows these vehicles to avoid some of the more congested roadways. Air France and Thalys rail company have made it easier to travel to Paris to catch a flight by allowing their mutual customers to travel on a Thalys train from Brussels to Paris on the same ticket as their flight.
Modes of transportation are not the only issues logistic companies will have to contend with in Europe, with the opening of the former Soviet Bloc countries there is a new pool of low wage skilled workers that can be drawn on. Many companies are starting to set up manufacturing centers in these countries due to the proximity to their consumers. Because of this logistic companies will need to start looking at ways to work within the existing transportation infrastructure and possibly help make it better. In the immediate future logistic companies will need to be flexible in terms of their commitments, efficient when it comes to managing their supply chains, and collaborative between departments to ensure no solution is overlooked.
*Parts of this article are also posted at suite101.com by the same author