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Transport infrastructure investments

Indicator Assessment Created 16 Nov 2010 Published 18 Jan 2011 Last modified 04 Sep 2015, 07:00 PM
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Indicator codes: TERM 019

Key messages

Spending on transport infrastructure has increased over the decade to 2008  for the 20 Member States included in the EEA-32 analysis, both in absolute terms and as a proportion of GDP. Road infrastructure continues to receive the majority of investment, and although other modes of transport (rail, sea and air) have increased their share of investment overall in the last decade, the most recent five years have seen a return to increasing proportions of investment in road infrastructure. The EU-12 Member States have seen proportionally much greater rises in the level of transport investment than the EU-15 Member States in all modes except sea transport infrastructure. Overall investment in transport infrastructure grew by almost 3% in 2007-2008 for the EEA-32 Member States included in the analysis, despite a general economic recession and reduction in transport activity in that year.

Are we giving investment priority to environmentally friendly transport systems?

Investment in transport infrastructure (million Euro) in EEA member countries

Note: Investment in Infrastructure in EEA member countries, in term of million euro. Only those countries (20 in total) for which complete datasets were available for road, rail, inland waterways, sea and air have been included. They are: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain, Switzerland and the UK. Data was not available for Italy in 2008, so 2007 data was used as a proxy.

Data source:

OECD/ITF, Infrastructure investments in million EUR , date of extraction: 13 September 2010

Eurostat,  B1GM Gross domestic product at market prices, Table NAMA_GDP_C =  GDP and main components - Current prices, available from the website of Eurostat via following path.


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For the 20 Member States included in the EEA32 analysis, the annual investment in transport infrastructure in absolute terms has risen steadily from around €67 bn in 1995 to more than €120 bn in 2008. This equates to a rise from around 0.9% of GDP to approximately 1.2% of GDP in the same period (a third increase). Road infrastructure has accounted for by far the largest expenditure in every year, though its share is smaller than a decade ago (from 62% to 58% in the decade to 2008). The share of investment in rail has increased slightly (28-30%) in the last 10 years, as have the shares of investment in sea (3-4%) and air (6-7%) infrastructure. However, looking over the last 5 years this trend reverses: the share of road infrastructure has increased between 2003 and 2008 (52%-58%), whilst the share of investment in all other modes has dropped.  Inland waterways continue to attract the lowest share of infrastructure investment; its share has shrunk by nearly a third over 10 years to just over 1% in 2008. The 10-year increase in the share of investment directed towards rail and sea infrastructure could be seen as a positive shift towards more environmentally friendly modes of transport. However, in the case of sea infrastructure it could equally be argued that the investment has enabled an overall increase in freight movement, rather than shifting freight away from less environmentally friendly modes. Additionally, the more recent trend for road transport to take an increasing proportion of infrastructure investment could be seen as regressive from an environmental perspective.

In the European Union, there is a marked difference in investment trends between the EU-12 and EU-15. Although overall investment in transport infrastructure in the EU-12 is around one tenth that of the EU-15, growth in investment over the last decade is far higher – around 400% growth in the EU-12 compared to just over 50% in the EU-15. There are two likely contributing factors to this large rise: firstly, the increase may reflect efforts to compensate for earlier underinvestment in transport infrastructure, and is compounded by the increased demand for transport in growing economies. Secondly, accession to the European Union, and resulting financial aid, can act to facilitate investment. Expenditure on road and air infrastructure in the EU-12 both grew by a factor of 6 and 5 respectively, whilst investments in rail and inland waterways grew by a factor of 3. Investment in sea transport infrastructure grew comparatively little (90% in the decade to 2008), but this is likely a product of the EU-12’s geography: many Member States are landlocked, and those that have coastlines are not well positioned for international shipping. In contrast, shipping infrastructure investment in the EU-15 has seen the greatest 10-year increase of any mode (130% to 2008), and is the only area where growth in spending in the EU-15 has been greater than the EU-12. In particular, Italy reported a huge increase in expenditure between 2000 and 2005, and in 2004 accounted for almost half of all shipping infrastructure investment in the EU-27. It is interesting to note that, although over the ten years to 2008 investment in rail infrastructure in the EU-15 has risen by nearly 80%, virtually all of this increase occurred in the first five years, with very little growth (0.7%) in investment since 2003.

Transport infrastructure investment grew by around 3% in 2007-2008 across the EEA-32 Member States included in the analysis. This is in contrast to a decrease in transport activity - both passenger and freight - in the same period (see TERM12, passenger transport demand and TERM13, freight transport demand). As transport infrastructure investments are largely public-sector driven, they are less affected by economic recession in the short term. However, it is possible that the resulting pressure on government spending will impact on infrastructure investments in future years.

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

Percentage of GDP used for transport infrastructure investment by mode (EEA32)

Note: Trends of transport infrastructure investments in relation to GDP between 1995 and 2008. Only those countries (20 in total) for which complete datasets were available for road, rail, inland waterways, sea and air have been included in Figure 1. They are: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain, Switzerland and the UK. Data was not available for Italy in 2008, so 2007 data was used as a proxy.

Data source:

OECD/ITF, Infrastructure investments in million EUR , date of extraction: 13 September 2010

Eurostat,  B1GM Gross domestic product at market prices, Table NAMA_GDP_C =  GDP and main components - Current prices, available from the website of Eurostat via following path or direct link.,1136173,0_45570701&_dad=portal&_schema=PORTAL


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The proportion of GDP invested in transport infrastructure for the EEA-32 Member States (for which data were available) has risen steadily over the decade to 2008, when it accounted for just over 1.2% of GDP. The first five years’ (1998-2003) growth in investment has been driven mainly by an increase in spend on rail infrastructure (from 0.25% to 0.38% of GDP) whilst the latter five years (2003-2008) have seen a rise in spend on road infrastructure (from 0.57% to 0.70% of GDP) driving the increase in overall investment. Investment in seaports and airports also grew strongly over the 10-year period (but from much lower starting levels), however in the last five years the share of GDP spend on seaports has declined slightly, and increase in share of spend on airports has slowed. 

Indicator specification and metadata

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 recent decades have focused on extending infrastructure capacity, particularly roads, as a response to increasing traffic demand. However, the assumption that investment should keep pace with traffic growth has been questioned in the light of the increasing greenhouse gas emissions and congestion hindering the economies. 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 (ECMT, 1997).


In response to the Green Paper on the future TEN-T policy published by the Commission (European Commission, 2009) the European Parliament called on the Commission and Member States to integrate green corridors, rail freight networks, European Rail Traffic Management System (ERTMS) corridors, maritime “highways”, inland waterways, dry ports, logistics platforms and urban mobility nodes, in favour of more environmentally friendly, less oil consuming and safer modes. This would ensure an optimal use of all modes of transport and promote the compatibility of connections between the various modes of transport and provide a consistency between the current and future TEN-T framework.


The TEN-T priority projects of 2004 have been subjected to a common socio-economic evaluation and chosen for their high relevance to trans-national traffic flows, cohesion and sustainable development objectives. However, the Commission has questioned the methodological soundness of their selection, the potential for interconnection and extension (both geographically and modally), the approach to coherent capacity and quality standards, and the means of better stimulating their completion within the planned timeframe and has launched a new round of consultations, which will result in a revisited priority list or methodology.


‘Consultation on the Future Trans-European Transport networks’ was adopted on the 4th May 2010, and covers three of the planning options that were included in the Green Paper. The Commission aims to develop a duel layer TEN-T with a core network of the strategically most important nodes and links overlaying the relatively dense comprehensive network based on the Green Paper and Consultation process. Six expert groups were set up, which have provided recommendations on a strategic network planning methodology including the connections beyond the EU, and supplementary infrastructure measures to integrate other EU policy fields into TEN-T planning and on legal and financial aspects.


There are a number of objectives, within the context of the ‘Europe 2020’ Strategy, which will require balanced solutions, including internal market, global competitiveness, cohesion and environmental issues (in particular decarbonisation of transport). Multimodal land-based networks will be supplemented by maritime transport, ports and their hinterlands and airports. Planning forEurope’s networks will be based on the current methodology and the feedback from the public consultation. A Commission Staff Working Document was published in January 2011 that provided a summary of the outputs of this consultation and discussion of the policy planning and implementation issues. The Commission’s proposals for the new TEN-T Guidelines are currently expected in mid-late 2011. 


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.


Most recently 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.

Related policy documents


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-32 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. This is in accordance with the methodology used for greenhouse gas inventories under the EU Monitoring Mechanism.

The largest proportion of gaps exists at the start (1992-1994) and end (2008) of the data set. Therefore, data for these years should be treated as less reliable than other years, when there is a much lower proportion of gap-filled data.

The most significant source of uncertainty is for Italy. Though it does not have the most gaps in its dataset, the combination of a relatively high number of gaps (there is no data for 1992-1994 or for 2008 in any mode) and Italy’s relatively significant contribution to the totals as one of the five largest economies in the EEA-32. For all modes, data for 1995 are used as a proxy for years 1992-1994, and data for 2007 are used as a proxy for 2008. 

Methodology references


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

Despite only data for 20 countries being used in the analysis, it covers 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


Data sources

Generic metadata


Transport Transport (Primary topic)

gdp | infrastructures | transport indicators | transport
DPSIR: Driving force
Typology: Descriptive indicator (Type A - What is happening to the environment and to humans?)
Indicator codes
  • TERM 019
Temporal coverage:
Geographic coverage:
Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain, Switzerland, United Kingdom

Contacts and ownership

EEA Contact Info

Cinzia Pastorello


EEA Management Plan

2010 2.9.2 (note: EEA internal system)


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