Motorised transport makes it possible for people to work further from home, giving them the opportunity to earn higher wages. It also allows access to cheaper consumer goods from retail outlets outside town centres, and provides more recreational travel options. But what are the real costs of motorised transportation? And who pays?
Transport is a major source of greenhouse gas emissions:
Transport infrastructure comprises roads, railways, waterways, harbours, airports, garages, depots and parking areas, and it can never be environmentally neutral. This infrastructure occupies land that could be put to other uses or left in a natural state. In short, natural habitats are irreversibly destroyed when transport facilities are built. Remediation measures are seldom carried out in the case of abandoned rail lines, or on land where there have been spills or leakages of hazardous substances. Transport infrastructure also creates barriers within natural habitats that impede animal migrations. In all European countries, the road network is far larger than the rail network. In recent years, the greatest rate of increase in terms of road construction in Europe has been seen in the case of motorways.
Growing transport demand arises from the complex interaction between economic growth, changes in industrial structure (affecting freight transport), and socioeconomic factors such as higher income levels and new land-use patterns (affecting passenger transport). The costs of private transport have declined in real terms for both passenger and freight transport, but public transport costs have risen.
Changes in the volume and structure of economic activities have immediate repercussions for transport systems. Recent decades have been characterised by the relocation of industrial structures from urban areas to new sites, which has contributed to the dispersal of economic activities. The development of economies strongly based on services has made transport patterns more diffuse. The number of points of departure and arrival has increased, and flexibility and speed have become key parameters in transport decisions. In an effort to optimise production and save on storage costs, some businesses have introduced just-in-time delivery systems. The nature of freight has shifted from heavy, bulk goods to lighter, high-value goods, thus shipments are both smaller and more frequent. The opening up of Central and Eastern European countries and the development of corresponding trade links have increased the demand for both freight and passenger transport. Road transport between Western and Eastern Europe is projected to quadruple, and railway transport to triple, in the coming years.
Demographic changes and higher incomes have led to higher rates of car ownership, as well as increased holiday and leisure time for travel. The annual rate of increase in car ownership in Central and Eastern Europe is greater than in Western Europe.
Passenger transport by air is growing rapidly in Europe. Flying is particularly popular among tourists and intensifies in the summer months. However, the number of aircraft journeys has not increased as rapidly as the number of passengers, due to increases in aircraft size.
At local level, the functional segregation of land use for work, leisure and shopping has increased the need for commuting and travel in daily life. Many services can be accessed only by travelling long distances. Out-of-town shopping centres have become commonplace.
Belarus is located at the intersection of several major traffic flows. The country is crossed by some of the most important highways and railways used for freight and passenger movements between Western and Eastern Europe, the Baltic States and Ukraine. Belarus has visa agreements with some geographically distant countries, which has significantly increased passenger numbers on Belarusian airlines. Belarusian pipelines are the main means of energy transfer from the Russian Federation to the European Union.
The Government of Belarus and various citizens groups are focusing attention on modernising the country’s transport system, primarily by means of upgrading transport infrastructure, bolstering security and improving environmental performance.
In the transport sector in Belarus:
The use of bicycles in towns and villages in Belarus is traditional and widespread. The advent of new, high-tech mountain bikes and hybrid models is attracting even more citizens to use bicycles for everyday transportation in cities. The presence of bicycles in cities tends to slow down the pace of urban life. Bikes are a more efficient means of transport than cars due to route flexibility and freedom from the need for petrol stations and parking lots.
The passenger car is by far the most popular form of transport in Belarus. There are more than 2.5 million private cars in the country, with more than half a million in Minsk alone. There are approximately 300 cars for every 1,000 individuals, and the number of cars owned by organisations and citizens is growing constantly.
Cars have emerged as the most significant anthropogenic factor determining the ecological status of Belarusian towns and cities. They have an impact not only on the health and welfare of citizens, but also on the state of natural ecosystems.
Citizens of Belarus are becoming more mobile as the country expands its international connections. The following are among the current transport trends and developments:
In March 2009, the Ministry of Transport and Communications of the Republic of Belarus developed a concept for introducing the ecological classification of motor vehicles. On January 1, 2010, Belarus introduced the labelling of vehicles according to ecological classification and prepared a related public database. The main aim of introducing environmental classes for road vehicles is to justify various duties on imports into Belarus, depending on whether the vehicles have high or low levels of environmental safety.
The Ministry of Transport and Communications of the Republic of Belarus actively cooperates with international governmental and non-governmental organisations, and is a party to major international conventions and agreements governing the environmental aspects of transportation.
On Car-Free Day, which is held each year in Belarus, motorists are encouraged to leave their vehicles at home and instead go by bus, trolleybus, tram or bicycle — or walk. Motorists who participate in Car-Free Day can use public transport services free of charge.
Belarus has adopted a transport development concept that is both socially and economically sustainable. It involves the use of cleaner fuels, as well as vehicles that are more economically and environmentally friendly.
Article 34 of the Law on Environmental Protection provides transport-related environmental safety regulations. Legal persons working in the field of transport are required to take measures to prevent and reduce emissions of pollutants into the environment. Under this law, government bodies need to develop and enforce regulations to protect specific natural objects (e.g. plots of land, rivers and other water bodies) that are at increased risk from transport-related activities.
According to the Code on the Technical Inspection of Vehicles, every motorist receives a diagnostic chart after passing inspection. The chart contains detailed information on the vehicle’s environmental performance, including diesel opacity, gasoline-engine exhaust gas toxicity, and oil and fluid leakages.
The National Research Centre for Environmental Safety and Energy Efficiency in Transport is situated in Gomel. The centre undertakes several tasks related to the environmental security of transport, including the examination of proposed technical solutions to improve the efficiency and environmental performance of diesel and gasoline internal combustion engines.
Transtekhnika is a leading research and development facility located in Minsk, and is associated with the Ministry of Transport and Communications of the Republic of Belarus. Transtekhnika’s main areas of activity are environmental protection and the ecological safety of transport.
Comprehensive information about the state-owned transport system in Belarus is available on the official website of the Ministry of Transport and Communications: mintrans.gov.by/rus/activity/autoandroad/functions/
There are various forums for motorists and cyclists, including:
Further information about transportation in Belarus can be obtained from: