Freight transport demand
Assessment made on 01 Jan 2002
ClassificationTransport (Primary theme)
DPSIR: Driving force
- TERM 013
Policy issue: Break the link between economic growth and freight transport growth
Freight transport remains strongly linked to economic growth in the EU.
Freight intensity (the amount of tonne-kilometres per unit of GDP) is falling in the ACs, but is still on average five times higher than in the EU.
Freight transport volumes (road, rail and inland waterways) increased by 11 % between 1993 and 1999 in the ACs, while GDP increased by 24 %. While tonne-km growth was closely linked to economic growth after 1993, this link was broken in 1998, following a collapse of rail freight transport in the Czech Republic and Romania, related to a period of economic recession in both countries. In the EU, the link between economic growth and freight transport growth remains strong; freight volumes increased by 15 % while GDP grew by 16 % over the same period. In more recent years (1995-99) in the EU the growth rate of freight has even exceeded the GDP growth rate. This runs counter to the EU objective of decoupling transport growth from economic growth.
The opening of the borders between the ACs and the EU has to a great extent shifted transport flows from and to the former Soviet Union towards the EU and initiated a strong export traffic from the EU to the ACs. In 1998, EU imports from the ACs were already twice as high as in 1990, and exports to the ACs were four times the 1990 level.
Freight intensity (tonne-km transported per unit of economic activity) is still on average five times higher in the ACs than in the EU. This can be explained by their different economic structure, generally focused on the earlier stages of the production cycle (processing of raw materials, heavy industry, production of intermediary products). Freight intensity is, however, decreasing in most ACs following structural changes in the economy (particularly over the first half of the past decade), such as the transition to a market economy and the shift towards more service-intensive economies and away from (transport-intensive) industry, and a further collapse of rail freight transport in the second part of the decade. Notable exceptions are the Baltic states, where freight intensity has risen, probably due to the excellent geographical position of these states as transit countries for freight transport to the Russian hinterland.