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Investments in transport infrastructure

Indicator Specification Created 21 Aug 2007 Published 03 Sep 2010 Last modified 09 Mar 2016, 04:11 PM
Topics: ,
Indicator codes: TERM 019


Justification for indicator selection

Infrastructure development is an important way to enhance market integration, improve trade and foster development in order to strengthen regional cohesion in Europe. In order to increase the capacity of transport infrastructure, the European Commission has set itself the objective of offering users high-quality and safe infrastructure that includes all transport modes, and to allow for optimal use of existing capacities by either creating new, or upgrading existing infrastructure (White Paper and TEN-T revision objective).

However, transport networks have clear harmful effects on the environment, either directly or indirectly.

Direct effects include biodiversity and territorial issues: fragmentation of ecosystems and habitats by transport infrastructure; proximity of transport infrastructure to designated areas; and land take for transport infrastructure. Of the three, land fragmentation due to transport infrastructure is the most relevant, as it covers one of the main transport impacts in Europe.

Indirect effects include those related to noise, energy consumption, and emissions of greenhouse gases and many other pollutants from the vehicles that use the infrastructure.

Monitoring the level of spending in transport infrastructure and the mode of transport that benefits from the spending is a useful indicator to better understand whether policy aims in transport infrastructure development and transport sustainability are being translated into improvements in the competitiveness of environmentally friendly modes of transport. 

Scientific references

  • No rationale references available

Indicator definition

The term “transport infrastructure” refers only to infrastructure that is open to the general public. It covers buildings and other constructions, as well as machinery and equipment, but it excludes vehicles and rolling stock.

Investment on infrastructure covers expenditure on new construction and the extension of existing infrastructure, including reconstruction, renewal and major repairs to infrastructure.

For rail, infrastructure includes land, permanent way constructions, buildings, bridges and tunnels, as well as immovable fixtures, fittings and installations connected with them (signaling, telecommunications, catenaries, electricity sub-stations, etc.) as opposed to rolling stock.

For road, maintenance includes surface maintenance, patching and running repairs (work relating to the roughness of the carriageway wearing course, roadsides, etc.).

For inland waterways, expenditure on locks is included.


Expenditure is measured in millions of Euros.

Policy context and targets

Context description

Traditionally, EU transport policy has been concerned with providing transport infrastructure and services to support the development of the internal market and ensure the proper functioning of the Community’s transport systems. Transport infrastructure investments are also seen as important in reducing disparities between regions.

During past decades, transport investment policies focused on extending infrastructure capacity, particularly roads, as a response to increasing traffic demand. However, there is strong evidence that new transport infrastructure, again particularly roads, generates new demand for travel, and often serves simply to shift congestion problems from one place or point in time to another.

As of January 2014, the European Union has a new transport infrastructure policy that connects the continent between East and West, and North and South. This policy aims to close the gaps between Member States' transport networks, remove bottlenecks that still hamper the smooth functioning of the internal market and overcome technical barriers such as incompatible standards for railway traffic. It promotes and strengthens seamless transport chains for passengers and freight.

As an EU policy, the trans-European networks (TENs) – in transport, energy and telecommunication – have existed since 1993. The new TEN-T (transport) guidelines (Regulation (EU) No 1315/2013) clearly state the essence of the policy:

The planning, development and operation of trans-European transport networks contribute to the attainment of major EU objectives, as set out in, inter alia, the Europe 2020 Strategy and the Commission White Paper entitled "Roadmap to a Single European Transport Area – Towards a competitive and resource efficient transport system" ("the White Paper"), such as the smooth functioning of the internal market and the strengthening of economic, social and territorial cohesion. Their specific objectives also include allowing the seamless, safe and sustainable mobility of persons and goods, ensuring accessibility and connectivity for all regions of the EU, and contributing to further economic growth and competitiveness in a global perspective. These specific objectives should be achieved by establishing interconnections and interoperability between national transport networks in a resource-efficient and sustainable way. For example, rail interoperability could be enhanced by innovative solutions aimed at improving compatibility between systems, such as on-board equipment and multi-gauge rail tracks.

Growth in traffic has resulted in increased congestion in international transport. In order to ensure the international mobility of passengers and goods, the capacity of the trans-European transport network and the use of that capacity should be optimised and, where necessary expanded. This should be done by removing infrastructure bottlenecks and bridging missing infrastructure links within and between Member States and, as appropriate, neighbouring countries, and taking into account ongoing negotiations with candidate and potential candidate countries.

As stated in the White Paper, the efficiency and effectiveness of transport can be significantly enhanced by ensuring a better modal integration across the network, in terms of infrastructure, information flows and procedures.


There are general targets for investments enabling a modal shift to more environmentally friendly transport modes such as rail, waterways and sea transport. Targets also exist for investments enabling an integrated trans-European transport network (TEN-T).

The European Commission published a Transport White Paper in March 2011 (European Commission, 2011), which includes a number of objectives and targets for transport. In particular, there are a number of objectives aimed at ‘Optimising the performance of multimodal logistic chains, including by making greater use of more energy-efficient modes’, which will, in most cases, have a direct impact on transport infrastructure investment and capacity. These include:

  • 30 % of road freight over 300 km should shift to other modes such as rail or waterborne transport by 2030, and more than 50 % by 2050, facilitated by efficient and green freight corridors. To meet this goal will also require appropriate infrastructure to be developed.
  • By 2050, complete a European high-speed rail network. Triple the length of the existing high-speed rail network by 2030 and maintain a dense railway network in all Member States. By 2050, the majority of medium-distance passenger transport should travel by rail.
  • A fully functional and EU-wide multimodal TEN-T ‘core network’ by 2030, with a high quality, high capacity network by 2050 and a corresponding set of information services.
  • By 2050, connect all core network airports to the rail network, preferably high-speed; ensure that all core seaports are sufficiently connected to the rail freight and, where possible, inland waterway systems.

According to the latest TEN-T guidelines, EU transport policy objectives should be achieved by establishing interconnections and interoperability between national transport networks in a resource-efficient and sustainable way.

Related policy documents

Key policy question

Is investment in environmentally friendly transport systems being prioritised?

Specific policy question

What is the GDP share of infrastructure investment by transport mode in the EEA Member Countries?


Methodology for indicator calculation

Data are collected by the OECD's International Transport Forum on an annual basis. There is a two year delay in data availability. The data collected includes information on absolute infrastructure investment (million EUR) per EEA-33 member country for rail, road, inland waterways, maritime ports and airports. Unfortunately, there are many data gaps and, therefore, the analysis has been based on those countries for which there were no more than three consecutive years of missing data, so that a more accurate picture of the trends in transport investment can be shown.

Methodology for gap filling

As described above, countries have been deleted from the analysis where more than three years worth of consecutive data for any transport mode are missing. Where three years or less are missing, gap filling has been employed to ensure data completeness. In all cases, data from the latest year available are used as a proxy and assumed to be the same in all consecutive missing years. 

Methodology references

  • Transport infrastructure investment and maintenance spending The International Transport Forum (ITF) collects data on investment and maintenance spending on transport infrastructures on annual basis from all its Member countries. Data are collected from Transport Ministries, statistical offices and other institutions designated as an official data source.

Data specifications

EEA data references

  • No datasets have been specified here.

Data sources in latest figures


Methodology uncertainty

It is important to note that data coverage varies significantly from one country to another. This is mainly due to the lack of more detailed common definitions and the difficulty countries face in changing their data collection system.

In addition, there is no purchasing power parity corrected general index for transport infrastructure investment. This makes comparing investment between countries on a consistent basis very difficult.

Data sets uncertainty

Data cover a broad spectrum and, therefore, general trends can be obtained. However, the accuracy and robustness of the data on a country level is questionable. This is because there are often differences in the methodology for collecting information at country level and this will influence data quality. 

More comments on data set uncertainty due to gap filling can be found in the ‘Methodology for gap filling’ section.

Rationale uncertainty


Further work

Short term work

Work specified here requires to be completed within 1 year from now.

Long term work

Work specified here will require more than 1 year (from now) to be completed.

Work description

  Further work could be undertaken to improve the consistency in the investment data. At present there is inconsistency across countries about what is reported in the data. For example, different countries may be reporting what accounts for a road investment differently to another country. There is a need to define more precisely what is covered under investment in road, rail, inland waterways, sea ports and airports. The data could also be improved to increase the consistency in the inclusion of data from different funding sources. In particular, it could be improved to ensure that data is included from both public and private sector funds.   In addition, it is important to improve the amount of data that is available, thereby minimising data gaps. This would ensure that more accurate trends in transport investment are ascertained.    Data on investments in pipelines should be researched.

Resource needs

No resource needs have been specified


In progress


2017/12/31 00:00:00 GMT+1

General metadata

Responsibility and ownership

EEA Contact Info

Diana Vedlugaite


European Environment Agency (EEA)


Indicator code
TERM 019
Version id: 1
Primary theme: Transport Transport


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Frequency of updates

Updates are scheduled every 3 years


DPSIR: Driving force
Typology: Descriptive indicator (Type A - What is happening to the environment and to humans?)

Related content

Data references used

Latest figures and vizualizations

Relevant policy documents

European Environment Agency (EEA)
Kongens Nytorv 6
1050 Copenhagen K
Phone: +45 3336 7100