This map shows how Europe's population changed and shifted in the first decade of the 21st century

An extract from the BBSR's map of Europe's changing population.

Immigration – I know this sounds unlikely, but bear with us a moment here – is in the news rather a lot at the moment.

For one thing, there's the Mediterranean migrant crisis, which EU leaders are meeting to discuss this week. Then there's the non-stop thrill ride of Britain's debate over whether or not it's a good idea to alienate the entirety of the continent just across the English Channel; one of the main arguments put forward by the Eurosceptic and definitely not racist right-wing party UKIP is that pulling out of Europe would give us back control of our borders.


This, though, isn't the only demographic story playing out in Europe at the moment. While Britain debates how to handle population growth, other countries are facing a crisis brought on by emigration and falling birth rates – a gradual depopulation of the sort that could utterly wreck welfare systems.

What this movement of people looks like across an entire continent can be hard to visualise. Lucky, then, that someone has done it for us.

To be specific, it's the good people of the Bundesinstitut für Bau-, Stadt- und Raumforschung – or, if your German's a bit rusty, the Federal Institute for Research on Building, Urban Affairs & Spatial Development.

The BBSR, as all the hepcats of Germany's sexy young demographic forecasting community like to call it, has produced a map, showing how the population of every municipality in Europe (LAU2 units, to use the technical name) changed between 2001 and 2011.

The colours represent average annual population change. The three shades of red represent growth (light pink up to 1 per cent, darker pink 1-2 per cent; dark red 2 per cent or over); the three shades of blue represent the same figures, except with a minus sign in front of them. Yellow areas are basically stable.

Here's the map:

The BBSR highlighted some of its findings in a statement accompanying the map. (It's in German, and our German is pretty rusty, too, so we're relying on internet translation tools. But you get the sense, at least.)

Especially in the countries of Eastern and Southern Europe, the population has declinded significantly... Growing and shrinking populations are sometimes right next to each other, for example in the German-Polish border regions...

Many regions in western Europe, however, show strong gains [in population] – in France, England and the Benelux countries, many areas recorded growth in population.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, one of the clearest trends shown on the map is the shift to the cities:

Cities and suburban municipalities reported rising population figures in almost all countries. In many countries, especially in eastern Europe, they are the only growth regions. In the Baltic states and in Bulgaria, growth is concentrated in the capital regions.

(Emphasis ours.)

The notes also highlight the "spiderweb" growth of London, affecting not just the city proper but axes radiating out from it. It's a sign that London's functional economic area extends beyond the city proper and along major commuter rail routes.

Some other trends we've spotted:

  • The Scandinavians seem to be moving south – though we suspect this is a function of urbanisation, rather than a response to the weather.
  • The Mediterranean coasts are getting more populated, too. Look at north eastern Spain, northern Italy, or even Turkey.

  • Germany is facing significant depopulation – a trend that's especially pronounced in the old communist-controlled part of the country.
  • Last but not least, check out the north of Scotland. That's the Aberdeen oil boom right there.

EDIT TO ADD: On Twitter, David Freeborn has noted another trend that we missed:

@CityMetric A beautiful trend you didn't mention: suburbanisation in Poland as people move from old Communist-era inner cities to suburbs.

— DavidPWFreeborn (@DPWF0) June 16, 2015

He's not wrong.

You can see the map, with official commentary, in German, here.

 
 
 
 

What’s in the government’s new rail strategy?

A train in the snow at Gidea Park station, east London, 2003. Image: Getty.

The UK government has published its new Strategic Vision for Rail, setting out policy on what the rail network should look like and how it is to be managed. 

The most eye-catching part of the announcement concerns plans to add new lines to the network. Citing the Campaign for Better Transport’s Expanding the Railways report, the vision highlights the role that new and reopened rail lines could play in expanding labour markets, supporting housing growth, tackling road congestion and other many other benefits.

Everyone loves a good reopening project and this ‘Beeching in reverse’ was eagerly seized on by the media. Strong, long-standing reopening campaigns like Ashington, Blyth and Tyne, Wisbech and Okehampton were name checked and will hopefully be among the first to benefit from the change in policy. 

We’ve long called for this change and are happy to welcome it. The trouble is, on its own this doesn’t get us very much further forward. The main things that stop even good schemes reaching fruition are still currently in place. Over-reliance on hard-pushed local authorities to shoulder risk in initial project development; lack of central government funding; and the labyrinthine, inflexible and extortionately expensive planning process all still need reform. That may be coming and we will be campaigning for another announcement – the Rail Upgrade Plan – to tackle those problems head-on. 

Reopenings were the most passenger-friendly part of the Vision announcement. But while sepia images of long closed rail lines were filling the news, the more significant element of the Strategic Vision actually concerns franchising reform – and here passenger input continues to be notable mainly by its absence. 

Whatever you think of franchising, it is clear the existing model faces major risks which will be worsened if there is a fall in passenger numbers or a slowdown in the wider economy. Our thought leadership programme recently set out new thinking involving different franchise models operating in different areas of the country.

The East-West Link: one of the proposed reopenings. Image: National Rail.

Positively, it seems we are heading in this direction. In operational terms, Chris Grayling’s long-held ambition for integrated management of tracks and trains became clearer with plans for much closer working between Network Rail and train operators. To a degree, the proof of the pudding will in the eating. Will the new arrangements mean fewer delays and better targeted investment? These things most certainly benefit passengers, but they need to be achieved by giving people a direct input into decisions that their fares increasingly pay for. 

The government also announced a consultation on splitting the Great Western franchise into two smaller and more manageable units, but the biggest test of the new set-up is likely to be with the East Coast franchise. Alongside the announcement of the Strategic Vision came confirmation that the current East Coast franchise is being cut short.

Rumours have been circulating for some time that East Coast was in trouble again after 2009’s contract default. The current franchise will now end in 2020 and be replaced with public-private affair involving Network Rail.


This new management model is an ideal opportunity to give passengers and communities more involvement in the railway. We will be pushing for these groups to be given a direct say in service and investment decisions, and not just through a one-off paper consultation.

Elsewhere in the Strategic Vision, there are warm words and repeated commitments to things that do matter to passenger. Ticketing reform, compensation, a new rail ombudsman, investment in improved disabled access and much else. This is all welcome and important, but is overshadowed by the problems facing franchising.

Stability and efficiency are vital – but so too is a model which offers deeper involvement and influence for passengers. With the building blocks of change now in place, the challenge for both the government and rail industry is to deliver such a vision. 

Andrew Allen is research & consultancy coordinator of the Campaign for Better Transport. This article was originally published on the campaign’s blog.

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