Although the world’s most significant cities are located along the coast and act as gateways to global trade, many cities are located in the hinterland, which acts as major economic centers, servicing markets and organizing the collection and transformation of regional resources. This is particularly the case of the United States, Europe, and China, which have an active coastal system, but also a large number of important inland centers. Economies of scale and the development of containerized maritime shipping have improved the connectivity of gateways, leaving inland centers with connectivity challenges. An inland center is fulfilling three main types of connectivity:
- A (Gateway connectivity). Represents the array of transport infrastructure and logistics services that enable an inland center to be connected to a maritime trade gateway. This is particularly the case of rail and river barge services. Such connectivity has been actively pursued by ports that have developed hinterland accessibility strategies to expand their market and secure traffic.
- B (Regional connectivity). Since an inland center is based on servicing its regional market and resources, the strengthening of its regional connectivity is a core economic development strategy. This particularly involves road connectivity and logistics activities interacting between regional, national, and global supply chains. This connectivity imbed the inland center within its regional economic system.
- C (Landbridge connectivity). A form of connectivity that involves long-distance inland corridors and where the inland center acts as a connector between inland systems of circulation. This form of long-distance connectivity almost exclusively covers rail transportation, such as the setting of rail landbridges across North America and Eurasia.
The development of hinterland connectivity is expected to expand opportunities for inland centers by building new complementarities with gateways and the international supply chains they connect to, but also with other inland centers.