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Capacity of transport infrastructure networks

Indicator Fact Sheet (Deprecated)
Topics: ,

Assessment made on  01 Aug 2005

Generic metadata


Transport Transport (Primary theme)

DPSIR: Driving force


Indicator codes
  • TERM 018
Geographic coverage:

Policy issue:  Optimise the use of existing infrastructure capacity and revitalise rail and inland waterways

Key messages

  • Most infrastructure extension work is concentrated on motorways, high-speed rail (HSR) and pipelines. The total length of motorways in the EEA-31 increased by almost 15 000 km (41 %) between 1990 and 2003, while that of HSR increased by almost 4000 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.


Key assessment

While infrastructure length is only a proxy measure for capacity, the steady increase in the length of the road infrastructure between 1990 and 2002 (with motorways growing by 41 %), suggests that road capacity has expanded to the detriment of conventional rail and inland waterways that remained constant. The capacity may have increased even more since additional lanes are not counted in the statistics. The effect is bigger for the newly acceded countries than for the old EU countries. The length of motorways increased in these countries with 70 % -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 ( e.g. road pricing or congestion charging1) 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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