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Freight transport demand by mode and group of goods

Indicator Fact Sheet (Deprecated)
Topics: ,

Assessment made on  01 Oct 2003

Generic metadata


Transport Transport (Primary theme)

gdp | freight | transport
DPSIR: Driving force


Indicator codes
  • TERM 013
Geographic coverage:

Policy issue:  Break the link between economic growth and freight transport growth

Key messages

  • Overall freight transport demand (in terms of tonne-kilometres) followed economic development. Road transport has increased continuously, mainly at the cost of rail freight transport. The freight transport intensity decreased slightly during the 1996-2000 period.

  • Freight transport demand grew faster than GDP, thereby moving away from the objective of reducing the link between economic growth and freight transport demand. The demand for freight transport per unit of GDP shows an average increase of 11 % between 1991 and 2000 in EU Member States.

  • The modal split in freight transport changed considerably between 1996 and 1999. The share of road transport increased, whereas the share of rail decreased considerably from 47 % in 1996 to 36 % in 2000, thereby threatening the objective to maintain a 35 % share of rail transport in 2010 in the acceding countries. The share of oil pipelines and inland shipping accounts for only a small part of all tonne-kilometres and remained stable during the 1996-99 period.

  • The share of road freight transport increased during the 1991-2000 period, whereas the modal share of short-sea shipping remained more or less stable. Both had a share of 41 % in 2000. The modal shares of rail, inland waterways and oil pipelines continue to decrease, thereby moving away from the objective of stabilising the share of alternative transport modes (CTP).


Key assessment

AC + CC:
Following the economic downturn after the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989, a general trend can be observed of declining freight transport demand in the early 1990s, up to 1992/93. After 1992/93, freight transport demand, closely following economic recovery, increased rapidly. An important factor behind increasing transport demand is the opening-up of the borders between the EU and the ACs. The European Union is by far the most important trading partner of the 10 acceding and the 3 candidate countries. Between 1993 and 1999, the total value of trade increased almost threefold to EUR 210 billion. At 13.7 % of total trade, the candidate countries as a group are the EU's second trade partner, after the USA.
Overall transport demand in the 8 acceding countries increased with 7 % in the 1996-2000 period to 320 billion tonne-km. Road transport was the most important mode in freight transport, and showed also the strongest growth: 19 % between 1996 and 2000. Rail transport and inland waterway both decreased between 1996 and 2000, with 9 and 16 % respectively. Oil pipeline transport grew with 13 % between 1996 and 1999.

EEA 17:
Between 1991 and 2000 total freight transport demand in the Member States increased by a third from 2 300 to over 3 000 billion tonne-km. Over this period, the average EU annual growth rate of freight transport (3.2 % per year) was considerably higher than that of GDP (2.1 % per year). The decrease in freight transport between 1991-1993 reflects the reduction in economic activity of that period. Since 1996, freight transport grew even more rapidly than the average rate, reaching 4 to 5 % growth per year.All modes in freight transport experienced growth on the European level in the 1991-2000 period. The most extensive growth was in road transport and short sea shipping, with an average yearly growth rate of 4.0 and 3.3 % respectively. Rail freight transport has grown with 0.8 %, inland shipping with 1.7 % and transport through oil pipelines with 1.0 %.Portugal, Luxembourg and Ireland - countries showing high growth in GDP - show the highest increase in freight transport demand between 1991 and 2000 (taken into account road, rail, inland shipping and oil pipelines). North-European countries (Sweden, Finland and Denmark) show the lowest increase in freight transport demand.

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