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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:

  • Road transport is currently the greatest contributor, accounting for 80 percent of carbon dioxide emissions and 60 percent of all emissions of nitrogen oxide from transport. Nitrogen oxide is produced by the combustion of fuel at high pressure and temperatures. It contributes indirectly to the greenhouse effect and directly to the formation of acid rain and tropospheric ozone.
  • Carbon monoxide is created by the incomplete combustion of fuel in petrol engines. It can be hazardous to health, particularly by interfering with the absorption of oxygen by the blood.
  • Emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are produced by incomplete fuel combustion and the evaporation of fuel from petrol engines and service stations. They contribute to the formation of tropospheric ozone.
  • Particulate matter is emitted primarily by diesel engines, which produce emissions 50 times greater than petrol engines. Particulate matter can remain in the air for considerable periods of time and contribute to the formation of smog. Particulates are harmful to human health: fine particles can settle in the lungs, leading to respiratory diseases and cancer.
  • Routine and accidental releases of oil or chemical substances into the environment from lorries and tankers contribute to the pollution of soil, rivers and seas.

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:

  • In terms of turnover, rail transport holds the leading position.
  • By size, the road transport network is the biggest. Cars are the dominant mode in terms of vehicles for personal use and vehicles used in the private business sector. Heavy goods vehicles account for more than half of road freight traffic and now transport more goods, in terms of tonnage, than rail (which was the dominant mode until 2000).
  • Electric vehicles — trolleybuses, trams and electric trains — are used mainly to transport passengers over short distances on urban and suburban routes. Underground electric transport exists only in the capital, Minsk.
  • Air transport is used mainly for international passenger transportation.
  • As Belarus is a landlocked country, its water transport network is poorly developed. The inland waterway transport network is used to carry cargo, and leisure trips are offered on navigable rivers.
  • Pipelines play an important role in the transportation of raw materials.

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.

  • The increasing number of vehicles has increased the quantity of harmful emissions into the atmosphere. The problem is compounded by the large-scale import and use of second-hand cars. Many cars and trucks run on poor-quality diesel fuel, which increases emissions of fine particles that are hazardous to health.
  • Worsening traffic conditions have also led to a rise in road-related emergencies. Urban traffic congestion is problematic during peak hours and near road repair sites. This applies to all the main urban settlements.
  • Fuel and car repairs are becoming more expensive.
  • People are spending more time in their cars and less time looking after their health. Inactivity has led to an increase in cardiovascular diseases and joint problems. The unnatural microclimate of car interiors and the use of chemical cleaning agents can cause mental and physical symptoms and damage the respiratory system.
  • Car parks and petrol stations occupy large areas. Petrol stations, many of which provide car-washing services, are often located near rivers. The dual service is convenient for motorists but has a detrimental impact on riparian and coastal areas.
  • Many highways pass through natural areas such as forests, wetlands and nature reserves. Roads not only alter the natural landscape, but also create obstacles for moving and migrating animals. Huge numbers of animals are killed during seasonal migrations, and cars claim the lives of many birds and land animals on a daily basis.
  • In large numbers, cars pose other environmental problems as well, such as noise pollution and vibrations.

Citizens of Belarus are becoming more mobile as the country expands its international connections. The following are among the current transport trends and developments:

  • Large buses typically dominate Belarusian municipal car parks, although private carriers mainly use minibuses. Public transport operators are also gradually moving to smaller vehicles, which will save fuel and enhance both passenger mobility and the flexibility of transport services.
  • Motorists in Belarus are showing a growing interest in hybrid technology. A transition to hybrid cars could help reduce the environmental damage caused by passenger transport.
  • While the number of private cars has increased, so has the number of bicycles, making it increasingly difficult for the two modes of transport to peacefully coexist. Formally adopted traffic rules are not proving conducive to cycling: not only are cyclists required to dismount at zebra crossings, but they have also been forced to use pavements, causing great inconvenience to pedestrians. As a result, urban cyclists have begun to form associations to help popularise cycling as a means of transportation. If cyclists grow in number and influence, they may be able to change the traffic rules in their favour.
  • Despite the increasing popularity of cars, rail services are still in great demand in rural areas. It is a great advantage that citizens are now able to purchase rail tickets via the Internet, saving them both time and money.
  • The Belarusian rail system mainly operates trains that run on combustible fuel. The purchase of powerful modern freight locomotives from China can be considered a positive development. In the future, this will improve energy security and rail transport efficiency.

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:

There are various forums for motorists and cyclists, including:

Further information about transportation in Belarus can be obtained from: