Capacity of transport infrastructure networks
Assessment made on 01 Sep 2004
ClassificationTransport (Primary theme)
DPSIR: Driving force
- TERM 018
Policy issue: Optimise the use of existing infrastructure capacity and revitalise rail and inland waterways
- Most infrastructure extension work is concentrated on motorways and high-speed rail (HSR). The total length of motorways in the EEA-31 increased by almost 15 000 km (35 %) between 1990 and 2001, while that of HSR increased by almost 2000 km.
- The construction of HSR and motorways (TEN) affects the natural environment through fragmentation and leads to increased demand and related environmental consequences. Therefore, environmental (SEA, EIA) and socio-economic (SCBA) assessments should be taken better into account and the consequences of these studies should be taken into consideration on the basis of clear criteria set.
While infrastructure length is only a proxy measure for capacity, the steady increase in the length of the road infrastructure between 1990 and 2000 (with motorways growing by 38 %), suggests that road capacity has expanded to the detriment of conventional rail and inland waterways that remained constant. This effect is even bigger for the new Member States. The length of motorways increased in these countries with 60 % -but from low levels-, while the length of other infrastructure remained stable. Increasing infrastructure capacity is not always necessary. Optimization of the current traffic flows through road pricing (congestion charging) is still limited throughout Europe. The application of these principles might be more beneficial to the society than the construction of new infrastructure when capacity problems arise.
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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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