Cross-border conurbations

Finding better solutions to the specific challenges of cross-border conurbations

Transport and mobility

The phenomenon of cross-border commuting flows is mainly focused on the transport corridors of cross-border conurbations. On France’s borders, five large conurbations polarise the movements of commuters: Geneva, Luxembourg, Basel, Sarrebrücken and Monaco1. The vast majority of these border workers are motorists. The saturation of road infrastructures and the development and management of public transport infrastructure are issues that are not specific to cross-border conurbations. However these issues loom larger in the context of the border and its role in international transit. Furthermore, the frameworks put in place by public authorities to address these issues (e.g. the “plan de déplacements urbains” in France, and other similar Urban Transport Plans) are not inter-operable, which poses a problem for their coordination.

A number of conurbations have created or plan to create local cross-border public transport links, as exemplified by the Basel conurbation (existing and planned cross-border tramlines), the planned extension of the Strasbourg tramway to Kehl, the tram-train between Sarreguemines (Moselle) and Heusweiler (Saarland), and the French-Genevan “CEVA” project (Greater Geneva regional express train). (see the topic "Transport").

Integrated management of public services within a cross-border conurbation

The costs of “non-agglomeration”, in other words, the separate management on either side of the border of public services such as sanitation and waste management, power, public transport, broadband networks, health, etc. can be high, because it leads to the duplication of facilities and to higher investment and running costs. Hence the importance of developing partnerships between border city administrations in order to achieve integrated management of public services in cross-border conurbations and optimise management costs. The cross-border crèche of the Strasbourg-Ortenau Eurodistrict is a good example of shared infrastructure and mutualised public services within the Strasbourg-Kehl conurbation.

Economic development and Employment

The theme of economic development appears recurrently in the projects of cross-border territories, and especially in conurbations. Yet the integrated management of economic development (see the factsheets “Economic Development" and "Employment") on the cross-border scale is fraught with issues of various kinds: regulations on access to work for border workers, the incompatibility of tax systems and technical standards, the non-equivalence of diplomas... However, examples of successful integration (for example Copenhagen/Malmö and the Øresund Region) demonstrate the benefits that a cross-border urban system can reap from this situation.

Land and Property Management

Housing is a recurring theme in the concerns of cross-border conurbations, because of the differences in cost of land and housing on either side of the border. For example, inhabitants cross the border to find a home at a lower cost while continuing to work in their country of origin. Significant challenges involve the interactions of demand for land and property, and cross-border access to housing, once again making necessary the cross-border coordination of procedures being conducted from each side of the border (local housing programmes, land policy). For the Greater Geneva conurbation, the PACAs (concerted metropolitan development areas) have helped to identify the key measures to implement in matters of urban planning, housing, transport, the environment and landscape within the conurbation.


Cross-border conurbations greatly encourage intercultural exchange. With the development of educational exchanges, and learning the language of the neighbour, the organisation of cross-border cultural events and the creation of partnerships between different cultural institutions, residents of these conurbations no longer experience the border as a barrier or divide, but as a place of enrichment through diversity. Cultural cooperation needs to be encouraged, as it provides the cement for the smooth running of a cross-border living space (see factsheet on "Culture"). The conurbations of Chaves and Verín, on the Portuguese-Spanish border, have established a common cultural policy, notably by the creation of a “Eurocitizens card” which allows inhabitants of the two agglomerations access to the cultural and leisure facilities on either side of the border.

1. Résider en France et travailler à l’étranger, Insee Première N° 1537 - février 2015 [FR]