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Freight transport demand by mode and group of goods

Indicator Fact Sheet (Deprecated)
Topics: ,

Assessment made on  01 Jun 2006

Generic metadata


Transport Transport (Primary theme)

DPSIR: Driving force


Indicator codes
  • TERM 013
Geographic coverage:

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

Key messages

  • More goods are transported farther and more frequently. This results in increased CO2 emissions and slows the decline in air pollutant emissions. The period 1998-2001 saw a relative decoupling of growth in freight volumes from economic growth. However, in more recent years this trend was reversed. In the new Member States the period of relative decoupling has come to an end.

  • Road transport is gaining an every increasing share of the freight market. This development constitutes a move further away from the EU objective of stabilising the share at its 1998 level. At present, there are policy initiatives aimed at a modal shift for long-distance and large-scale transport.


Key assessment

Rapidly growing volumes

Freight transport volumes have grown significantly since 1992, thereby making it increasingly difficult to reduce the environmental consequences of transport. Interestingly, for the first time freight transport volume fell in the EU-15 in 2003 before rising sharply in 2004.

The reasons for the growth in freight transport comprise factors on both the demand and supply side of the transport market. The main underlying factors are globalisation and intra-EU liberalisation of the internal market, combined with a declining real price of freight transport in most countries (see TERM 20 EU - Transport prices). The unified European market has provided faster and cheaper transport due to the removal of barriers at border crossings, lower labour costs and the provision of more and better infrastructure, for instance, as part of the TEN-T programme.This situation enabled and facilitated:

  • Complex trading networks, exploiting differentials in labour cost. Especially within the EU, constraints on cross-border movements have been removed and related "barrier costs" are reduced (TNO, 1999). Increased distances between material extraction, the manufacture (and recycling) of goods and the final consumer are a logical consequence.
  • Preferences of customers have become more specialised, causing additional and longer freight movements. In Germany, for example, the amount of food consumed has not grown much in the last three decades, but food transport (in tonne-km per capita) almost doubled. Reasons include customer preferences for food from other countries, the location and production patterns of the food industry and the policies and location of retailers, such as "just-in-time" deliveries to supermarkets (FAW, 2000).

Development of the transeuropean networks under the TEN-T programme may facilitate further growth in freight volume due to the focus on relieving bottlenecks and expansion of infrastructure capacity. The revised guidelines have some provisions for environmental issues, namely a call on Member States to perform Strategic Environmental Assessment of national transport programmes and a requirement that funding for TEN-T projects be conditional on compliance with EU environmental legislation. However, environmental concerns are secondary for the selection of projects and the overall environmental impacts have not been assessed

The transport avoidance of the proposed Marco Polo II programme will, if the objective is met, shave off merely 0.5 % of the roughly 2 000 billion tonne-km performed by all modes in the EU25 or the equivalent of three months of typical transport growth. However, the programme's influence on modal split will be more pronounced (see TERM fact sheet 13b).

For more information, see the attached PDF documents.

Download detailed information and factsheets


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