Hans-Liudger Dienel (éd.), Unconnected Transport Networks, European Intermodal Traffic Junctions 1800-2000, Campus Verlag, Frankfurt/New York (2004), 216 pp., euro32.90; Michèle Merger and Marie-Noëlle Polino (eds), COST 340, Towards a European Intermodal Transport Network: Lessons from History, A Critical Bibliography, AHICF (2004), 220 pp., book and CD-Rom, euro15.
Both of these books originate in the European Community-funded COST 340 research programme, 'Towards a European Intermodal Transport Network: Lessons from History'. This is an interdisciplinary, international project focused on the growing importance of intermodal approaches for transport historians.
'Why so late?' is the question which acts as the connecting thread throughout Dienel's edited volume, Unconnected Transport Networks, dealing with the creation of links between various modes of transport - navigation, railways, road transport and aviation. The book is a joint effort, presented in the form of three sections combining thematic approaches (one section on ports, one on aviation) and interdisciplinary items (a chapter on planning, policy and engineering). This last aspect is one of the strong points of this book. Its authors, eleven in all, are representative of different disciplines (although historians dominate) and have tried to clarify the question of intermodal junctions from their respective points of view. The question 'Why so late?' guided the authors in their quest to explain the various modes of transport that held back in certain cases the development of 'intermodality' or 'multimodality'. These two terms are relatively recent, even if they describe long-standing conditions, since they concern the transfer of people or goods from one means of transport to another. Indeed, the official definitions (EU and UN) of these terms given in the introduction to the book are not really sufficient for the authors, who have employed a looser use of these words. This use is nevertheless coherent and logical so the reader does not get lost along the way.
The major difficulty in the book comes from the choice of articles. The volume necessarily limits the number of examples and gives a rather restricted picture of intermodality. One wonders how far the selected case studies have a general character, or merely describe a special and limited situation. One can certainly treat the intermodality of aviation globally (as is well done in the third section) because of its intrinsic global character. Air transport overcame national boundaries from the beginning. There are many similarities in its development from one country to another and it should be considered differently to earlier modes of transport, in which geographical, political and institutional constraints played a more important role than technological ones.
The book's examples (especially the second section concerning ports) can offer only a certain number of ideas, from which one can hardly generalise. There are also certain gaps in the work. For instance, the title of the volume 'Intermodal Traffic Junctions 1800-2000' promises more than it delivers. In addition, the editor's introduction restricts the extent of the study chronologically by giving 'special emphasis' to the period after 1945, and skimming over many aspects of port, road and rail intermodality. He considers, for example, only the airports of urban centres which are, in a much more general way, high points of inter- and multimodality.
The total absence of countries from Central and Eastern Europe is also to be deplored. …