Essen is a city in the central part of the Ruhr area in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany. Located on the River Ruhr, its population of approximately 579,000 (as of 30 June 2008) makes it the 9th-largest city in Germany. For the year 2010, Essen was the European Capital of Culture on behalf of the whole Ruhr area.
Founded around 845 and historically linked to the centuries-old Krupp family iron works, Essen had been one of Germany's most important coal and steel centres until the 1970s and attracted workers from all over the country; it was the 5th-largest city in Germany between 1929 and 1988, peaking at over 730,000 inhabitants in 1962. The city has since developed a strong tertiary sector of the economy, so it is sometimes called "desk of the Ruhr area" (together with nearby Düsseldorf). Essen is home to 13 of the 100 largest German corporations and seat to several of the region's authorities.
Essen is located in the centre of the Ruhr area, one of the largest urban areas in Europe, comprising eleven independent cities and four districts with some 5.3 million inhabitants. The city limits of Essen itself are 87 km (54 mi) long and border ten cities, five independent and five kreisangehörig (i.e., belonging to a district), with a total population of approximately 1.4 million.
Essen is one of the warmest cities in Germany. It has a temperate-oceanic climate with relatively cool winters and mild summers. Its average annual temperature is 10 °C (50 °F): 13.3 °C (56 °F) during the day and 6.7 °C (44 °F) at night. The average annual precipitation is 934 millimetres (37 in). The coldest month of the year is January, when the average temperature is 2.4 °C (36 °F). The warmest months are July and August, with an average temperature of 18 °C (64 °F).
The road network of Essen consists of over 3,200 streets, which in total have a length of roughly 1,600 km (994 mi). Three Autobahnen touch Essen territory, most importantly the Ruhrschnellweg (Ruhr expressway, A 40), which runs directly through the city, dividing it roughly in half. In a west-eastern direction, the A 40 connects the Dutch city of Venlo with Dortmund, running through the whole Ruhr area. It is one of the arterial roads of the Ruhr area (> 140,000 vehicles/day) and suffers from heavy congestion during rush hours, which is why many people in the area nicknamed it Ruhrschleichweg (Ruhr crawling way). A tunnel was built in the 1970s, when the then-Bundesstraße was upgraded to motorway standards, so that the A 40 is hidden from public view in the inner-city district near the main railway station.
In the north, the A 42 briefly touches Essen territory, serving as an interconnection between the neighboring cities of Oberhausen and Gelsenkirchen and destinations beyond. A segment of the A 52 connects Essen with the more southern region around Düsseldorf. On Essen territory, the A 52 runs from the southern boroughs near Mülheim an der Ruhr past the fairground and then merges with the Ruhrschnellweg at the Autobahndreieck Essen-Ost junction east of the city centre.
As with most communes in the Ruhr area, local transport is carried out by a local, publicly owned company for transport within the city, the DB Regio subsidiary of Deutsche Bahn for regional transport and Deutsche Bahn itself for long-distance journeys. The local carrier, Essener Verkehrs-AG (EVAG), is a member of the Verkehrsverbund Rhein-Ruhr (VRR) association of public transport companies in the Ruhr area, which provides a uniform fare structure in the whole region. Within the VRR region, tickets are valid on lines of all members as well as DB's railway lines (except the high-speed InterCity and Intercity-Express networks) and can be bought at ticket machines and service centres of EVAG, all other members of VRR, and DB.
EVAG operates 3 U-Stadtbahn, 7 tram and 59 bus lines (16 of these serving as Nacht Express late-night lines only), with a total length of 29 kilometres (18 mi), 83 kilometres (52 mi) and 459 km (285 mi), respectively. One tram line and a few bus lines coming from neighboring cities are operated by these cities' respective carriers. The U-Stadtbahn, which partly runs on used Docklands Light Railway stock, is a mixture of tram and full underground systems with 20 underground stations for the U-Stadtbahn and additional 4 underground stations used by the tram. Two lines of the U-Stadtbahn are completely intersection-free and hence independent from other traffic, and the U 18 line leading from Mülheim main station to the Bismarckplatz station at the gates of the city centre partly runs above ground amidst the A 40 motorway. Essen Stadtbahn is integrated in the Rhine-Ruhr Stadtbahn network.
On the same motorway, a long-term test of a guided bus system is being held since 1980. Many EVAG rail lines meet at the main station but only a handful of bus lines. However, all but one of the Nacht Express bus lines originate from / lead to Essen Hauptbahnhof in a star-shaped manner. All EVAG lines, including the Nacht Express lines, are closed on weekdays from 1:30 a.m. to 4:30 a.m.
Of the Rhein-Ruhr S-Bahn net's 13 lines, 5 lines lead through Essen territory and meet at the Essen Hauptbahnhof main station, which also serves as the connection to the Regional-Express and Intercity-Express network of regional and nationwide high-speed trains, respectively. Following Essen's appointment as European Capital of Culture 2010, the main station, which is classified as a station of highest importance and which had not been substantially renovated over decades, will be redeveloped with a budget of € 57 million until early 2010. Other important stations in Essen, where regional and local traffic are connected, are the Regionalbahnhöfe (regional railway stations) in the boroughs of Altenessen, Borbeck, Kray and Steele. Further 20 S-Bahn stations can be found in the whole urban area.
Together with the neighbouring city of Mülheim an der Ruhr and the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, Essen maintains Essen/Mülheim Airport (IATA: ESS, ICAO: EDLE). While the first flights had already arrived in 1919, it was officially opened on 25 August 1925.
Significantly expanded in 1935, Essen/Mülheim became the central airport of the Ruhr area until the end of the Second World War, providing an asphalted runway of 1,553 m (5,095 ft), another unsurfaced runway for gliding and destinations to most major European cities. It was heavily damaged during the war, yet partly reconstructed and used by the Allies as a secondary airport since visibility is less often obscured than at Düsseldorf Airport. The latter then developed into the large civil airport that it is now, while Essen/Mülheim now mainly serves occasional air traffic (some 33,000 passengers each year), the base of a fleet of airships and Germany's oldest public flight training company. Residents of the region around Essen typically use Düsseldorf Airport (~ 20 driving minutes) and occasionally Dortmund Airport for both domestic and international flights.
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