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Passenger transport demand - outlook from WBCSD (Outlook 017) - Assessment published Nov 2007

Indicator Assessmentexpired Created 15 Nov 2006 Published 28 Nov 2007 Last modified 20 Feb 2014, 11:57 AM
This content has been archived on 12 Nov 2013, reason: Content not regularly updated
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Generic metadata


Environmental scenarios Environmental scenarios (Primary topic)

Transport Transport

forward looking indicators
DPSIR: Driving force
Typology: Descriptive indicator (Type A - What is happening to the environment and to humans?)
Indicator codes
  • Outlook 017
Geographic coverage:
Albania, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Moldova, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, United Kingdom

Key policy question: K: Is there in Europe a trend of decoupling of passenger transport demand from economic growth?

Key messages

According to the IEA/SMP model projections, the growth in the volume of passenger transport will not be decoupled from the economical growth significantly. This will be true for the whole pan-European region. Transport growth will be only marginally lower than GDP growth between 2000 and 2050.  During the outlook period passenger transport demand will grow on 5-11% slower than GDP in for Eastern Europe in; 3-7% slower for Former Soviet Union and 3-6% in OECD -Europe in 2020.

The share of rail transport is predicted to be stable in Eastern Europe accounting for about 10%, it is expected to grow in OECD-Europe from 4,6% in 2000 to 5,7 % in 2050 and it is expected to decline in FSU from 17,7% to 15,3 %. The share of the car passenger transport is expected to decline in OECD-Europe and Eastern Europe by 13% and grow by about 15% in FSU. The share of air transport is expected to grow in all pan European region by factor 2,3 in OECD-Europe, 2,6 in FSU and by factor 4,7 in Eastern Europe

Key assessment

The projections made by the IEM/SMP model estimate that passenger transport demand will increase in whole pan European region from 2000 to 2050, thereby making it increasingly difficult to stabilise or reduce the environmental impacts of transport. The growth is expected in all European sub-regions (Eastern Europe, Former Soviet Union and OECD-Europe). In the reference case projections, total passenger transport demand increases between 2000 and 2050 by a factor of nearly 1,5 in OECD-Europe, 2,5 in Eastern Europe and 2,7 in Former Soviet Union (FSU).

Transport demand per capita will also grow  and will change between 2000 to 2050  from about 12600 km to about 20230 km for OECD-Europe; from about 6900 km to about 20400 km in Eastern Europe and from about 5600 km to about 15200 km for Former Soviet Union.

The tendency of the current underlying factor for growth passenger transport demand will remain similar in the future. This factor is related with the growth in incomes coupled with a tendency to spend more or less the same share of disposable income on transport. Additional income therefore means additional travel budget, which allows more frequent, faster, farther and more luxurious traveling.

Overall growth in passenger transport demand is expected to be similar to that of GDP. For OECD-Europe transport growth is predicted to be marginally lower than GDP growth between 2005 and 2015 in OECD-Europe.  It is expected to be 3% in 2015, grow to 6% and fall to 3% again in 2035. For the Eastern Europe transport growth is estimated to be lower than GDP in 11% in 2005, 5% in 2030 and 9% in 2040. Similar trend is predicted for FSU countries with the 6% slower than GPD transport growth in 2005, 3% in 2020 and 7% in 2050.

Thus the achievement of the stated in the 6th EU Environmental programme objective of significant decoupling of transport demand from GDP is not expected under the reference case scenario. The objective of EECCA strategy to use transport demand side management is also unlikely to be achieved.

Specific policy question: S: Is there in Europe a trend of reduction of car passenger transport and increase of rail passenger transport in total inland passenger transport in relative to other modes?

Projections of the passenger transport demand by mode

Note: No individual countries are presented

Data source:
Downloads and more info

Specific assessment

With regard to the modal split of transport, no major technological substitution is expected over the 2000 - 2050 horizon.

The projected trends for the car passenger demand are different for European sub regions Expected increasing wealth among citizens give more people the option to buy a car and use the added flexibility that it provides. Only in dense urban centers and for longer distances can public transport compete in terms of travel time.

In Eastern Europe the predicted increase of the total passenger transport demand is 149 % and the increase of the car travel is 96% for the outlook period. It is related to the increasing economic growth consequently increased affordability of private cars by the citizens.

In the Former Soviet Union the total passenger demand is expected to rise by 167% with an increase of private care travel by almost 260 %. Reasons for such growth are similar to those in Eastern Europe.

In OECD Europe the predicted increase of total passenger transport demand from 2000 to 2050 is 45,3%, whereas the car passenger demand increases only by 14,7 % as the private automobile market  is already saturated.

At the same time for the outlook period the share of the car passenger transport is expected to decline in OECD-Europe from 63% to 50 % and in Eastern Europe from 57% to 45 %. The share of the car passenger transport in the FSU is expected to grow from 42% to 57%.

This outlook indicates that it is unlikely that the objectives of the EECCA Environmental Strategy as to development more sustainable transport systems including public transport will be achieved unless strong measures for sustainable transportation and behavior change will be introduced and enforced.

Pessimistic prognoses are suggested as well for the achievement of the objective of the Common Transport Policy of maintaining the 1998 modal shares. The outlook shows that that if currents rates of growth continue, air will surpass rail and busses and coaches and become the second most important mode of passenger transport after cars.   For example, share of the total is expected to increase from 13% in 2000 to 31% in 2050 OECD-Europe, from 7 % to 33 % in Eastern Europe for respective years. Similar conclusions are made in another study made by the Eurostat 'Analysis and Forecasting of International Migration by Major Groups II' estimates' (Office for Official Publications of the European Communities, Luxembourg'.

To address adverse effects of a growing air transport 7th FPR will place a stronger orientation towards 'greenings' air transport  with a greater focus on climate change as one of the main priority issues. Higher priority must be given to EU aeronautics research aimed at actually reducing the negative impacts of air transport on climate change.

The technological developments of the air transport were discussed in the White paper 'European transport policy for 2010:time to decide' and the Report 'the Future of European Aerospace: A shared vision for 2020'. These documents suggest that medium-capacity aircrafts can be expected to continue to predominate on most intra-Community flights. By contrast, on high-density long-haul flights many airlines will probably opt for very large aircrafts. The Airbus A 380 is the first example of what the next generation of aircraft will probably look like: large carriers capable of transforming more passengers. The aviation industry is preparing for this.

The developments of the air transport in the Former Soviet Union are not excepted to be as fast as in the rest of Europe. The share of air travel in total passenger demand will not grow as much as car travel. The expected changes in the area are from 4% in 2000 to 11% in 2050.

According to the IEA/SMP outlook the objective of the European transport policy which aimed to increase railway passenger share from 6 to 10% by 2020 is unlikely to be achieved. It is expected that in OECD-Europe the share of the rail passenger transport will increase from 4.6 in 2000 to only 5,0% in 2020 and 5,7% in 2050. (May be to include that more efforts should be made in order to achieve this objective). The rail passenger transport share is expected to be stable at the level of about 10% during the whole outlook period in Eastern Europe and it is expected to decline from almost 18% in 2000 to about 13% in 2050 in the Former Soviet Union.

The shares of public transport (busses, minibuses) are predicted to decrease in the whole pan-European region: in OECD Europe from 15% in 2000 to 10% in 2050; in Eastern Europe from  23% in 2000 to 9% in 2050;  in the FSU from 29% in 2000 to 10 % in 2050.

Data sources

More information about this indicator

See this indicator specification for more details.

Contacts and ownership

EEA Contact Info

Anita Pirc Velkavrh


EEA Management Plan

2010 (note: EEA internal system)



European Environment Agency (EEA)
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