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Transport infrastructure investments

Indicator Specification Created 21 Aug 2007 Published 03 Sep 2010 Last modified 03 Feb 2016, 04:57 PM
Topics: ,
Indicator codes: TERM 019


Justification for indicator selection

Infrastructure development is important 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 ecosystem 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 and the energy consumption and emissions of greenhouse gases and many 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 an useful indicator to understand whether policy aims in transport infrastructure development and transport sustainability are being translated into improving the competitiveness of environmentally friendly modes of transport. 

Scientific references

  • No rationale references available

Indicator definition

The term “transport infrastructure” refers only to infrastructures that are 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 expenditure on infrastructure covers expenditure on new construction and extension of existing infrastructure, including reconstruction, renewal and major repairs of infrastructure.

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

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

For Inland waterways expenditures on locks are included.


Million 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.

Transport investment policies during past decades focused on extending infrastructure capacity, particularly roads, as a response to increasing traffic demand. However, there is strong evidence that new transport infrastructure (particularly road) 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, 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 passenger and freight.

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

The planning, development and operation of trans-European transport networks contribute to the attainment of major Union 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 Union, and contributing to further economic growth and competitiveness in a global perspective. Those 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 by removing infrastructure bottlenecks and bridging missing infrastructure links within and between Member States and, as appropriate, neighbouring countries, and taking into account the 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 modal shift to more environmentally friendly transport modes such as rail, waterways and sea transport, and also investments enabling an integrated trans-European Transport Network.

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 go by rail.
  • A fully functional and EU-wide multimodal TEN-T ‘core network’ by 2030, with a high quality and 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 system.

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 priority to environmentally friendly transport systems being given?

Specific policy question

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


Methodology for indicator calculation

Data are collected by the OECD/ITF on an annual basis. There is a two year delay in data availability. The data collected included information on absolute infrastructure investment (million EUR) per country for the EEA-33 for rail, road, inland waterways, maritime ports and airports. Unfortunately there were many data gaps and therefore the analysis has just been based on those countries for which there was no more than 3 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 3 years worth of consecutive data for any transport mode is missing. Where 3 years or less are missing, gap filling has been employed to ensure data completeness. In all cases, data from the latest year available is 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, on annual basis from all its Member countries, data on investment and maintenance spending on transport infrastructures. Data are collected from Transport Ministries, statistical offices and other institution 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 draw the attention on the fact that the data coverage varies significantly from a country to another. This is mainly due to the lack of more detailed common definitions and the difficulty for countries to change their data collection system.

In addition, there exists 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. The accuracy and robustness of the data on a country level however is questionable. This is because there are often differences in the methodology for collecting information at the 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.

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


2015/12/31 00:00:00 GMT+1

Long term work

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

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?)

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Data references used

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