Indicator Assessment

Investment in transport infrastructure

Indicator Assessment
Prod-ID: IND-176-en
  Also known as: TERM 019
Published 09 Mar 2016 Last modified 11 May 2021
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  • Since the mid-nineties 1990s, spending on transport infrastructure increased significantly across the EEA-33 member countries, reaching a peak in 2009. It has subsequently decreased each year. Despite these reductions, in 2013, the level of spending was 7 % higher than in 1995.
  • The share of road transport investment has decreased from a high of 62 % in 1995 to a 53 % share of total investment in 2013. Rail investments comprised a 35 % share in 2013, a larger fraction than in 1995 when the share was less than 27 %. Infrastructure spending on other transport modes has remained broadly constant. 
  • Over the last decade, EU investment trends varied by region. The EU-13 Member States have generally seen rises in the level of transport investment, while the EU-15 Member States have seen a decrease in spending on transport infrastructure across all transport modes. 

Investment in transport infrastructure

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Modal share of expenditure on transport infrastructure

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For the EEA-33 member countries, absolute annual investment in transport infrastructure rose from around €2005 95bn in 1995 to over €2005 102bn in 2013*, an increase of around 7 %. Spending reached its highest level in 2009, peaking at almost 40 % higher than the amount spent in 1995, before declining rapidly.

The greatest transport infrastructure related expenses are made on road infrastructure, which accounted for more than 50 % of total spending in 2013, even though this share decreased from 62 % in 1995. Inland waterways continue to receive the lowest levels of investment, constituting approximately 2 % of total spending in 2013. Spending in this area has decreased by more than 30 % since 1995. However, the share of overall infrastructure investment allocated to railways in the EEA-33 has slightly increased over time. In 1995 it was 27 %, in 2000 29 % and in 2013 35 %. In principle this is consistent with the EU's objective of shifting traffic to more environmentally friendly modes.

In the EU, there is a marked difference in investment trends between the EU-13 and EU-15 regions. Overall investment in transport infrastructure in the EU-13 is only 10 % of that of the EU-15, yet investment has increased by 8 % over the last decade in the EU-13, compared to a 23 % decrease in the EU-15. Investment trends,  in the road transport sector, which have increased by 73 % in the EU-13 while decreasing by around 16 % in the EU-15, have a significant impact on that figure. There are two likely contributing factors to the overall rise in transport infrastructure spending in the EU-13: first, these countries experienced rapid economic growth and started from a relatively low base of infrastructure development and transport demand. Second, accession to the European Union has provided significant new sources for infrastructure funding.

*2005 is the value of the Euro at constant 2005 prices.

Modal share of GDP spent on transport infrastructure

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The proportion of GDP invested in transport infrastructure in the EEA-33 member countries (for which data were available) increased slightly between 1995 and 2009, but declined thereafter. In 2013, infrastructure spending as a proportion of GDP was more than one quarter lower than 2003 levels, the year in which the proportion was highest. Spending decreased by 3 % between 2012 and 2013. Road, sea and air infrastructure all saw a decrease in the proportion of GDP invested in them between 2003 and 2013. The largest decrease in this period was for sea transport infrastructure, which saw a decrease of more than one third.

As for absolute investment, there has been a significant difference in investment trends as a proportion of GDP between the EU-13 and the EU-15. Between 2012 and 2013, the share of investment in rail and air in the EU-13 increased, while in the EU-15, there was a growth in investment in inland waterways.

Supporting information

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 in 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 investment is 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 contributes 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 TEN-T 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 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 multi-modal 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 multi-modal 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



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 gaps in the data and therefore gap filling has been undertaken where required. 

Methodology for gap filling

As described above, 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

No methodology references available.



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 systems.

In addition, there is no purchasing-power parity-corrected general index for transport infrastructure investment. This makes comparing investments 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


Data sources

Other info

DPSIR: Driving force
Typology: Descriptive indicator (Type A - What is happening to the environment and to humans?)
Indicator codes
  • TERM 019
Frequency of updates
Updates are scheduled every 3 years
EEA Contact Info


Geographic coverage

Temporal coverage



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