Capacity of infrastructure networks (TERM 018) - Assessment published Sep 2010
Transport (Primary topic)
Typology: Descriptive indicator (Type A - What is happening to the environment and to humans?)
- TERM 018
Key policy question: Is the existing infrastructure capacity being optimised? Are we optimising the use of existing transport infrastructure capacity and moving towards a better-balanced intermodal transport system?
- During the last decade, the total length of Europe's motorway network, High Speed Rail (HSR) network, inland waterways and pipelines have increased. However, the total length of the conventional rail network has decreased.
- While infrastructure length is only a proxy measure for capacity, the steady increase in the length of the motorway infrastructure between 1990 and 2008 suggests that road capacity has expanded to the detriment of conventional rail. The data may not show the full extent of the divergence as motorway length may have increased even more than noted since additional lanes are not counted in the statistics (see the Definitions Section) and the rail network may have decreased further through reducing double track to single or reducing signalling spacing, which statistics do not show. The data shows that the negative effect is bigger for the new Member States (EU-12) than for the EU-15 countries. For example, the length of rail infrastructure, fell much more in the EU-12 than in the EU-15 during this time period.
- Increasing infrastructure capacity is not always necessary. Optimization of the capacity of the existing infrastructure through interconnectivity, interoperability, intermodality and road pricing still has lots of potential throughout Europe. The application of these principles might be more beneficial to society and definitely to the environment than the construction of new infrastructure when capacity and congestion problems arise.
Length of land transport infrastructure in the EEA-32
Note: The question: “are we optimising the use of existing transport infrastructure capacity and moving towards a better-balanced intermodal transport system” has attempted to been answered by referring to data available on network lengths. The indicator covers roads, motorway, railway (including high speed rail lines – HSR), navigable inland waterway lines and pipelines. Additionally it looks at transport infrastructure density in terms of land area (kilometres per km2) and transport infrastructure density in terms of population (km per 1000 inhabitants).
Eurostat, Lenth of Motorways length, http://epp.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/portal/page/portal/transport/data/database Date of extraction: Tue, 21 Apr 09 03:51:32
Eurostat, Railway length, http://epp.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/portal/page/portal/eurostat/home, Date of extraction: Tue, 21 Apr 09 03:51:32
Eurostat, Inland waterway, length http://epp.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/portal/page/portal/eurostat/home, Date of extraction: Tue, 21 Apr 09 03:51:32
Eurostat, Oil pipe lines, http://epp.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/portal/page/portal/eurostat/home, Date of extraction: Tue, 21 Apr 09 03:51:32
UIC (International Union of Railways), HRS length, www.uic.org, Date of extraction: April, 2009
Infrastructure density EEA
Utilization of rail infrastructure for passenger and freight transport (2005)
Note: Figure provides total freight traffic per kilometre against passengers carried per kilometre for the year 2005. The utilisation of railway infrastructure shows a regional divide, in that the new member states show comparatively high utilisation of rail infrastructure for freight transportation, whereas the EU15 countries achieve higher utilisation in passenger rail transport.
Eurostat, Railway length, http://epp.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/portal/page/portal/transport/data/database
During the period 1995 to 2005, for the 28 countries included in the analysis, the motorway network has increased in overall length by over 20%. The strongest growth in the length of motorways can be observed in France, Germany and Portugal. The growth of motorway construction will probably continue in the next decade, because the motorway density in terms of land area in the EU15 is around 10 times that of the EU12, although the population density is only around half of that of the EU15.
The rail network amounted to about 392,000 kilometres in the EEA-32 area in 1990 and has declined by approximately 10% since then. Roughly 54 % of the EEA-32 network (in 2005) is electrified, although some countries have not supplied data. However, the share of train-kilometres operated on electrified lines is likely to be higher, as electrified lines tend to be the busiest. The length of the EU's high speed rail (HSR) network has increased rapidly and has started to compete with low cost airlines on short distance flights (under 500 kilometres). Between 2000 and 2008, the network has increased by 2890 kilometres, and currently stands at almost 5600 kilometres. A further 4000 kilometres was under construction in 2008 which will lead to further significant expansion of the network in the coming years (Figure 2). Figure 3 provides total freight traffic per kilometre against passengers carried per kilometre for the year 2005. The utilisation of railway infrastructure shows a regional divide, in that the new member states show comparatively high utilisation of rail infrastructure for freight transportation, whereas the EU15 countries achieve higher utilisation in passenger rail transport.
Since 1990, the inland waterways network in the EEA32 has increased in length by almost 7% and in 2005 was about 40,000 kilometres long. The greatest increases have been seen in Germany, Finland, the Netherlands and the Czech Republic, whilst the greatest decreases have occurred in Slovakia and Estonia.
The trans-European gas pipeline infrastructure across 38 European countries (EEA-32 plus Morocco, Tunisia, Belarus, Ukraine, Turkey and West Russia) exceeds 436 thousand kilometres (Carvalho et. al, 2009). Table 2 lists gas pipelines directly linked to Europe or under development. Oil pipeline infrastructure was approximately 33 thousand kilometres in 18 European countries in 2005 and showed almost a 16% increase since 1990.
Infrastructure density, measured as the length of infrastructure per unit land area, is a proxy indicator for a country's transport capacity (see Table 1) but is to some extent correlated with geographical characteristics. Densely populated small countries (Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg) show high infrastructure densities, while the Scandinavian countries and most new member states show relatively low infrastructure densities. The density of infrastructure is also a proxy-indicator for accessibility, since it provides a measure of travel distances to transport networks.
The original priority of TEN-T (Trans - European Transport Network) was the elimination of bottlenecks, in particular in the frontier regions of the accession countries and the development of infrastructure projects crossing through natural barriers. The Gothenburg European Council in 2001 invited the Community institutions to adopt revised guidelines for the TEN-T, with a view to giving priority, where appropriate, to infrastructure investment for railways, inland waterways, short sea shipping, intermodal operations and effective interconnections (European Commission, 2004).
The Community Decision No. 884/2004/EC of 29 April 2004 amending the Community guidelines for the development of the TEN-T identified a set of thirty priority projects. Of these 18 are railway projects, 3 are mixed road/rail projects, 2 are inland waterway projects and 1 a sea project. The choice reflects a shift towards supporting more environmentally friendly transport modes
In February 2009, the Commission issued a Green Paper setting out the future challenges of its policy for a trans-European transport network. The paper stated that the policy needs to be re-aligned to contribute more effectively to objectives aimed at combating climate change. Stakeholders were invited to express their views on the proposal. The policy review currently underway will identify upcoming challenges for the TEN-T programme. At the end of October 2009, there will be a meeting in Naples at which there will be an in-depth discussion between stakeholders on the direction and objectives of future European transport policy. This conference will be a follow-up to the Green Paper and will set out policy options for the coming decade, taking particular account of targets in the fight against climate change and technological advances in the fields of transport and energy.
Corine land cover 2006 (CLC2006) 100 m - version 12/2009
provided by European Environment Agency (EEA)
Transport statistics (Eurostat)
provided by Eurostat - Statistical Office of the European Union (ESTAT)
More information about this indicator
See this indicator specification for more details.
Contacts and ownership
EEA Contact InfoCinzia Pastorello
EEA Management Plan2009 2.10.2 (note: EEA internal system)
Frequency of updates
For references, please go to www.eea.europa.eu/soer or scan the QR code.
This briefing is part of the EEA's report The European Environment - State and Outlook 2015. The EEA is an official agency of the EU, tasked with providing information on Europe’s environment.
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