1. bookVolume 13 (2021): Issue 2 (June 2021)
    Special Issue: Sparsely populated rural areas
Journal Details
First Published
24 Feb 2009
Publication timeframe
4 times per year
access type Open Access

Closeness is Not Accessibility: Isolation and Depopulated Rural Areas in the Proximity of Metropolitan Urban Areas, A Case-Study in Inland Spain

Published Online: 12 Jul 2021
Volume & Issue: Volume 13 (2021) - Issue 2 (June 2021)<br/>Special Issue: Sparsely populated rural areas
Page range: 410 - 435
Received: 16 Jan 2021
Accepted: 19 Mar 2021
Journal Details
First Published
24 Feb 2009
Publication timeframe
4 times per year

The increase of accessibility is one of the most important strategies to achieve territorial cohesion and slow down depopulation processes in rural areas. Accessibility is a wide concept with a range of interpretations. When it comes to rural areas, usual accessibility measures introducing proximity and ease of physical connection could lead to misinterpretations and a lack of knowledge for rural areas. This study proposes an accessibility analysis based on connection and function of one of the most depopulated territories in inland Spain: the province of Guadalajara (NUTS-3) which constitutes an interesting case-study because its proximity to the Spanish capital city (Madrid) and the integration of part of the province on its dynamics and economic processes. Results show different rural accessibility levels useful for public policies and decision making on infrastructures. In addition, the accessibility model suggested can be applied in other depopulated rural areas of Europe.


[1] Adom-Asamoah, G., Amoako, C. & Adarkwa, K. K. (2020). Gender disparities in rural accessibility and mobility in Ghana. Case Studies on Transport Policy, 8(1), 49–58. DOI: 10.1016/j.cstp.2019. Search in Google Scholar

[2] Ahern, A. & Hine, J. (2015). Accessibility of Health Services for Aged People in Rural Ireland. International Journal of Sustainable Transportation, 9(5), 389–395. DOI: 10.1080/15568318.2013.800926.10.1080/15568318.2013.800926 Search in Google Scholar

[3] Ballas, D., Kalogeresis, T. & Labrianidis, L. (2003). A comparative study of typologies for rural areas in Europe. In 43rd Congress of the European Regional Science Association: Peripheries, Centres, and Spatial Development in the New Europe (pp. 1–38). Louvain-la-Neuve: European Regional Science Association. Search in Google Scholar

[4] Barnett, S., Roderick, P., Martin, D. & Diamond, I. (2001). A multilevel analysis of the effects of rurality and social deprivation on premature limiting long term illness. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, 55(1), 44–51. DOI: 10.1136/jech. Search in Google Scholar

[5] Bhat, C., Handy, S., Kockelman, K., Mahmassani, H., Chen, Q. & Weston, L. (2000). Development of an Urban Accessibility Index: Literature [Technical report]. Austin: University of Texas. Search in Google Scholar

[6] Bock, B. (2016). Rural Marginalisation and the Role of Social Innovation; A Turn Towards Nexogenous Development and Rural Reconnection. Sociologia Ruralis 56(4), 552–573. DOI: 10.1111/soru.12119.10.1111/soru.12119 Search in Google Scholar

[7] Brezzi, M., Dijkstra, L. & Ruiz, V. (2011). OECD extended regional typology: the economic performance of remote rural regions [OECD Regional Development Working Papers]. Paris: OECD Publishing. DOI: 10.1787/5kg6z83tw7f4-en.10.1787/5kg6z83tw7f4-en Search in Google Scholar

[8] Caschili, S., De Montis, A. & Trogu, D. (2015). Accessibility and rurality indicators for regional development. Computers, Environment and Urban Systems, 49, 98–114. DOI: 10.1016/j.compenvurbsys.2014. Search in Google Scholar

[9] Christiaanse, S. (2020). Rural facility decline: A longitudinal accessibility analysis questioning the focus of Dutch depopulation-policy. Applied Geography, 121, 102251. DOI: 10.1016/j.apgeog.2020.102251.10.1016/j.apgeog.2020.102251 Search in Google Scholar

[10] Cloke, P. (2006). Conceptualizing rurality. In Cloke, P., Mardsen, T. & Mooney, P., eds., Handbook of rural studies (Vol. 18). London: SAGE Publications Ltd. Search in Google Scholar

[11] Collantes, F., Pinilla, V., Sáez, L. A. & Silvestre, J. (2013). Reducing Depopulation in Rural Spain: The Impact of Immigration. Population, Space and Place, 20(7), 606–621. DOI: 10.1002/psp.1797.10.1002/psp.1797 Search in Google Scholar

[12] Curtis, C. & Scheurer, J. (2010). Planning for sustainable accessibility: Developing tools to aid discussion and decision-making. Progress in Planning, 74(2), 53–106. DOI: 10.1016/j.progress.2010. Search in Google Scholar

[13] Delgado, C. (2019). Depopulation processes in European rural areas: a case study of Cantabria (Spain). European Countryside, 11(3), 341–369. DOI: 10.2478/euco-2019-0021.10.2478/euco-2019-0021 Search in Google Scholar

[14] Díaz, M. A., Jiménez, F. J. & Lorente, I. (2002). Estructura territorial y relaciones funcionales en el Corredor del Henares: una aproximación desde la movilidad diaria de la población. Anales de Geografía de la Universidad Complutense (22), 301–327. Search in Google Scholar

[15] Del Río, I. & Rodríguez, J. (2009). Áreas metropolitanas en transformación. Presente y futuro del Corredor del Henares en el área funcional madrileña. Anales de Geografía de la Universidad Complutense (29), 139–165. Search in Google Scholar

[16] Dunaway, W. A. (1996). The incorporation of mountain ecosystems into the capitalist world-system. Review (Fernand Braudel Center) 19(4), 355–381. Search in Google Scholar

[17] Farrington, J. & Farrington, C. (2005). Rural accessibility, social inclusion and social justice: towards conceptualisation. Journal of Transport Geography, 13(1), 1–12. DOI: 10.1016/j.jtrangeo.2004. Search in Google Scholar

[18] Gáková, Z. & Dijkstra, L. (2010). Does population decline lead to economic decline in EU rural regions? Regional Focus 1/2010. Search in Google Scholar

[19] Geurs, K. T. & van Wee, B. (2004). Accessibility evaluation of land-use and transport strategies: Review and research directions. Journal of Transport Geography, 12(2), 127–140. DOI: 10.1016/j.jtrangeo.2003. Search in Google Scholar

[20] Gutiérrez Puebla, J. (1991). Indicadores de accesibilidad en transporte público en el medio rural: una propuesta metodológica. Estudios Geográficos, 52(203), 205.10.3989/egeogr.1991.i203.205 Search in Google Scholar

[21] Hansen, W. G. (1959). How Accessibility Shapes Land Use. Journal of the American Institute of Planners, 25(2), 73–76. DOI: 10.1080/01944365908978307.10.1080/01944365908978307 Search in Google Scholar

[22] Heffner, K. & Latocha, A. (2020). Desolated Villages as Examples of Spatial, Economic and Social Marginalization in the Polish-Czech Borderland and Their Current Transformations. In: Nel E. & Pelc S., eds., Responses to Geographical Marginality and Marginalization. Perspectives on Geographical Marginality, vol 5 (pp. 123–142). Cham: Springer. DOI: 10.1007/978-3-030-51342-9_8.10.1007/978-3-030-51342-9_8 Search in Google Scholar

[23] Holl, A. (2007). Twenty years of accessibility improvements. The case of the Spanish motorway building programme. Journal of Transport Geography, 15(4), 286–297. DOI: 10.1016/j.jtrangeo.2006. Search in Google Scholar

[24] Isserman, A. M. (2005). In the national interest: Defining rural and urban correctly in research and public policy. International Regional Science Review, 28(4), 465–499. DOI: 10.1177/0160017605279000.10.1177/0160017605279000 Search in Google Scholar

[25] Kanuganti, S., Sarkar, A. K., Singh, A. P. & Arkatkar, S. S. (2015). Quantification of accessibility to health facilities in rural areas. Case Studies on Transport Policy, 3(3), 311–320. DOI: 10.1016/j.cstp.2014. Search in Google Scholar

[26] Kühn, M. (2015). Peripheralization: Theoretical Concepts Explaining Socio-Spatial Inequalities. European Planning Studies, 23(2), 367–378. DOI: 10.1080/09654313.2013.862518.10.1080/09654313.2013.862518 Search in Google Scholar

[27] Labianca, M. & Navarro, F. (2019). Depopulation and aging in rural areas in the European Union: practices starting from the LEADER approach. Perspectives on rural development, 3, 223–252. DOI: 10.1285/i26113375n3p223. Search in Google Scholar

[28] Lenormand, M., Bassolas, A. & Ramasco, J. J. (2016). Systematic comparison of trip distribution laws and models. Journal of Transport Geography, 51, 158–169. DOI: 10.1016/j.jtrangeo.2015. Search in Google Scholar

[29] Levine, J. (2020). A century of evolution of the accessibility concept. Transportation Research Part D: Transport and Environment, 83, 102309. DOI: 10.1016/j.trd.2020.102309.10.1016/j.trd.2020.102309 Search in Google Scholar

[30] López-i-Gelats, F., Tàbara, J. D. & Bartolomé, J. (2009). The rural in dispute: Discourses of rurality in the Pyrenees. Geoforum, 40(4), 602–612. DOI: 10.1016/j.geoforum.2009. Search in Google Scholar

[31] Martínez, H., Mohíno, I., Ureña, J. & Solís, E. (2014). Road accessibility and articulation of metropolitan spatial structures: the case of Madrid (Spain). Journal of Transport Geography, 37, 61–73. DOI: 10.1016/j.jtrangeo.2014. Search in Google Scholar

[32] Martínez Sánchez-Mateos, H. (2018). Defining rural: a functional and accessibility approach applied in Castilla-La Mancha (Spain). Redes, 23(3), 248–266. DOI: 10.17058/redes.v23i3.12245.10.17058/redes.v23i3.12245 Search in Google Scholar

[33] Mohíno, I., Ureña, JM. & Martínez, HS. (2014). Relaciones funcionales de profesionales altamente cualificados en áreas distantes de regiones urbanas multicéntricas: el caso de los Ingenieros de Caminos en el contexto madrileño, Scripta Nova, 18(488). Search in Google Scholar

[34] Molinero, F. (2019). El espacio rural de España: evolución, delimitación y clasificación. Cuadernos Geográficos 58(3), 19–56. DOI: 10.30827/cuadgeo.v58i3.8643.10.30827/cuadgeo.v58i3.8643 Search in Google Scholar

[35] Morrissey, K., Clarke, G., Ballas, D., Hynes, S. & O’Donoghue, C. (2008). Examining access to GP services in rural Ireland using microsimulation analysis. Area, 40(3), 354–364. DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-4762.2008.00844.x.10.1111/j.1475-4762.2008.00844.x Search in Google Scholar

[36] Moseley, M. J. (1979). Accessibility: the rural challenge. London: Metheuen. Search in Google Scholar

[37] Mu, L., Chen, Y. & Zhen, C. (2020). SNAP office accessibility and its association with rurality. Applied Geography, 120. DOI: 10.1016/j.apgeog.2020.102209.10.1016/j.apgeog.2020.102209 Search in Google Scholar

[38] Murawski, L. & Church, R. L. (2009). Improving accessibility to rural health services: The maximal covering network improvement problem. Socio-Economic Planning Sciences, 43(2), 102–110. DOI: 10.1016/j.seps.2008. Search in Google Scholar

[39] Neumeier, S. (2016). Accessibility to Services in Rural Areas: The Example of Petrol Service Provision in Germany. DISP, 52(3), 32–49. DOI: 10.1080/02513625.2016.1235877.10.1080/02513625.2016.1235877 Search in Google Scholar

[40] Peacock, A. & Pemberton, S. (2019). The paradox of mobility for older people in the rural-urban fringe. Journal of Rural Studies, 70, 9–18. DOI: 10.1016/j.jrurstud.2019. Search in Google Scholar

[41] Pinilla, V., Ayuda, M. A. & Sáez, L. A (2008). Rural depopulation and the migration turnaround in mediterranean Western Europe: A case study of Aragon. Journal of Rural and Community Development, 3,1–22. Search in Google Scholar

[42] Ranković Plazinić, B. & Jović, J. (2018). Mobility and transport potential of elderly in differently accessible rural areas. Journal of Transport Geography, 68, 169–180. DOI: 10.1016/j.jtrangeo.2018. Search in Google Scholar

[43] Reggiani, A., Bucci, P., Russo, G., Haas, A. & Nijkamp, P. (2011). Regional labour markets and job accessibility in City Network systems in Germany. Journal of Transport Geography, 19(4), 528–536. DOI: 10.1016/j.jtrangeo.2010. Search in Google Scholar

[44] Reynaud, C. & Miccoli, S. (2018). Depopulation and the Aging Population: The Relationship in Italian Municipalities. Sustainability, 10, 1004. DOI: 10.3390/su10041004.10.3390/su10041004 Search in Google Scholar

[45] Rogerson, P. (2006). Statistical methods for Geography. London: SAGE. Search in Google Scholar

[46] Ruiz, A. R. & Cañizares, M. C. (2020). Enhancing the Territorial Heritage of Declining Rural Areas in Spain: Towards Integrating Top-Down and Bottom-Up Approaches. Land, 9, 216. DOI: 10.3390/land9070216.10.3390/land9070216 Search in Google Scholar

[47] Salze, P., Banos, A., Oppert, JM., Charreire, H., Casey, R., Simon, Ch., Chaix, B., Badariotti, D. & Weber, Ch. (2011). Estimating spatial accessibility to facilities on the regional scale: an extended commuting-based interaction potential model. International Journal of Health Geographics, 10(2). DOI: 10.1186/1476-072X-10-2.10.1186/1476-072X-10-2 Search in Google Scholar

[48] Schatz, L. (2017). Going for growth and managing decline: the complex mix of planning strategies in Broken Hill, NSW, Australia. Town Planning Review 88(1), 43–57. DOI: 10.3828/tpr.2017.5.10.3828/tpr.2017.5 Search in Google Scholar

[49] Shah, T. I., Milosavljevic, S. & Bath, B. (2017). Measuring geographical accessibility to rural and remote health care services: Challenges and considerations. Spatial and Spatio-Temporal Epidemiology, 21, 87–96. DOI: 10.1016/j.sste.2017. Search in Google Scholar

[50] Syssner, J. & Siebert, C. (2020). Local governments and the communication of demographic decline in Sweden and Germany: who, what and why? AGER 29, 79–105. DOI: 10.4422/ager.2020.01. Search in Google Scholar

[51] Smith, N., Hirsch, D. & Davis, A. (2012). Accessibility and capability: The minimum transport needs and costs of rural households. Journal of Transport Geography, 21, 93–101. DOI: 10.1016/j.jtrangeo.2012. Search in Google Scholar

[52] Spiekermann, K. & Wegener, M. (2003). Trans-European networks and unequal accessibility in Europe. In 43rd Congress of the European Regional Science Association: Peripheries, Centres, and Spatial Development in the New Europe, Vol. 4 (pp. 35–42). Louvain-la-Neuve: European Regional Science Association. Search in Google Scholar

[53] Terluin, I. J. (2003). Differences in economic development in rural regions of advanced countries: an overview and critical analysis of theories. Journal of Rural Studies, 19(3), 327–344. DOI: 10.1016/S0743-0167(02)00071-2.10.1016/S0743-0167(02)00071-2 Search in Google Scholar

[54] van Eupen, M., Metzger, M. J., Pérez-Soba, M., Verburg, P. H., van Doorn, A. & Bunce, R. G. H. (2012). A rural typology for strategic European policies. Land Use Policy, 29(3), 473–482. DOI: 10.1016/j.landusepol.2011. Search in Google Scholar

[55] Vickerman, R. (1995). Location, accessibility and regional development: the appraisal of trans-European networks. Transport Policy, 2(4), 225–234. DOI: 10.1016/S0967-070X(95)00013-G.10.1016/S0967-070X(95)00013-G Search in Google Scholar

[56] Vickerman, R., Spiekermann, K. & Wegener, M. (1999). Accessibility and Economic Development in Europe. Regional Studies, 33(1), 1–15. DOI: 10.1080/00343409950118878.10.1080/00343409950118878 Search in Google Scholar

[57] Vitale Brovarone, E. & Cotella, G. (2020). Improving rural accessibility: A multilayer approach. Sustainability, 12(7). DOI: 10.3390/su12072876.10.3390/su12072876 Search in Google Scholar

[58] Wiggins, S. & Proctor, S. (2001). How Special are Rural Areas? the Economic Implications of Location for Rural Development. Development Policy Review, 19(4), 427–436. DOI: 10.1111/1467-7679.00142.10.1111/1467-7679.00142 Search in Google Scholar

[59] Woods, M. (2016). International migration, agency and regional development in rural Europe. Documents D’Anàlisi Geogràfica, 62(3), 569–593. DOI: 10.5565/rev/dag.372.10.5565/rev/dag.372 Search in Google Scholar

[60] Yeager, C. D. & Gatrell, J. D. (2014). Rural food accessibility: An analysis of travel impedance and the risk of potential grocery closures. Applied Geography, 53, 1–10. DOI: 10.1016/j.apgeog.2014. Search in Google Scholar

[61] European Union (2011). Territorial Agenda of the European Union 2020. Towards an Inclusive, Smart and Sustainable Europe of Diverse Regions. Gödölló, (Hungary). Search in Google Scholar

[62] European Union (2013). How can regional and cohesion policies tackle demographic challenges? Directorate General for internal policies. https://op.europa.eu/en/publication-detail/-/publication/68dcf076-c1b4-4bfa-8515-f04e65a5ecf2. Search in Google Scholar

[63] European Union (2016). Sparsely populated and underpopulated areas. EPRS. https://www.europarl.europa.eu/RegData/etudes/BRIE/2016/586632/EPRS_BRI(2016)586632_EN.pdf. Search in Google Scholar

[64] European Union (2019). Demographic trends in EU regions. European Parliamentary Research Service. https://ec.europa.eu/futurium/en/system/files/ged/eprs-briefing-633160-demographic-trends-eu-regions-final.pdf. Search in Google Scholar

[65] ESPON (2011). European development opportunities for rural areas (EDORA). Applied Research 2013/1/2. Final Report, Luxembourg: ESPON. Search in Google Scholar

[66] Nordregio (2012). Making the best of Europe´s sparcely populated areas. On making geographic specificity a driver for territorial development in Europe. Nordregio Working Paper, 15, 1–84. Search in Google Scholar

[67] OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development). (1994). Creating rural indicators for shaping territorial policy. París: OECD. Search in Google Scholar

Recommended articles from Trend MD

Plan your remote conference with Sciendo