Passenger and freight transport demand

Indicator Specification
Indicator codes: CSI 056 , TERM 039
Created 23 Mar 2018 Published 07 Nov 2018 Last modified 07 Nov 2018
2 min read
'Passenger transport demand' is defined as the number of passenger kilometres (pkm) travelled every year in a country or group of countries. Inland passenger transport includes transport by passenger car, bus, coach and train. 'Freight transport demand' is defined as the amount of inland tonne-kilometres (tkm) travelled every year in a country or group of countries. Inland freight transport includes transport by road, rail, inland waterway, air and maritime. Transport via rail and inland waterway is based on movements within national territory ('territoriality principle'), regardless of the nationality of the vehicle or vessel; road transport is based on all movements of vehicles registered in the reporting country.  'Modal split' is defined as the proportion of total pkm allocated to different transport modes every year. The modal split of freight transport is defined as the percentage share of modes (road and rail) in total inland transport, includings transport by road, rail and inland waterway. The 'decoupling indicator' is defined as the annual changes in the ratio of pkm/tkm (inland modes) to GDP (in 2010 prices) growth.

Assessment versions

Published (reviewed and quality assured)

Rationale

Justification for indicator selection

The European Union (EU) has the objective of disconnecting mobility from its negative environmental impacts. Transport is one of the main sources of greenhouse gases (GHG) and air pollutants. It contributes to global warming, air and noise pollution, and also to landscape fragmentation and resource consumption in general.

The demand for passenger and freight transport is an important factor in the environmental pressure exerted by the mobility system. When considering the environmental impact of passenger and freight transport, the modal split is relevant because of the differences in environmental performance.

This indicator shows the total volume of passenger and freight transport demand over time, a breakdown by transport mode and the relationship to gross domestic product (GDP), which helps interpret observed trends in environmental impact. It also helps to explain the main variables that influence modal choice and the relative success of the policy measures that the EU and/or Member States are implementing in order to reduce demand or influence modal choice.

It should be noted that the differences in performance within specific modes can be substantial, e.g. performance of older trains versus that of newer trains. The precise environmental effect of a modal shift can only be determined on a case-by-case basis, when local circumstances and specific local environmental effects are taken into account. 

Scientific references

  • No rationale references available

Indicator definition

'Passenger transport demand' is defined as the number of passenger kilometres (pkm) travelled every year in a country or group of countries. Inland passenger transport includes transport by passenger car, bus, coach and train.

'Freight transport demand' is defined as the amount of inland tonne-kilometres (tkm) travelled every year in a country or group of countries. Inland freight transport includes transport by road, rail, inland waterway, air and maritime. Transport via rail and inland waterway is based on movements within national territory ('territoriality principle'), regardless of the nationality of the vehicle or vessel; road transport is based on all movements of vehicles registered in the reporting country. 

'Modal split' is defined as the proportion of total pkm allocated to different transport modes every year. The modal split of freight transport is defined as the percentage share of modes (road and rail) in total inland transport, includings transport by road, rail and inland waterway.

The 'decoupling indicator' is defined as the annual changes in the ratio of pkm/tkm (inland modes) to GDP (in 2010 prices) growth.

Units

The unit used to express passenger transport volume is the passenger-kilometre (pkm), which represents one passenger travelling a distance of 1 km. It is based on transport by car, bus, coach and train. The unit used to express freight transport volume is the tonne-kilometre (tkm), which represents the movement of one tonne over a distance of one kilometre.

Gross domestic product (GDP) is expressed in constant euros, indexed to the year 2010.

Transport demand and GDP are shown as an index (2000 = 100). The ratio of the former to the latter is indexed to the year t  1 (i.e. annual decoupling/intensity changes) in order to observe changes in the annual intensity of passenger transport demand relative to economic growth (GDP). 

The modal split is shown as a percentage (%).

Policy context and targets

Context description

The EU has set itself the objective of decoupling economic growth from transport demand in order to create a more sustainable transport system. This decoupling has been a central theme in EU transport policy and is intended to minimise the negative impacts of transport.

Targets

  • In this indicator, the policy target to significantly decouple transport growth from GDP growth in order to reduce the negative environmental effects of transport and congestion is considered.
  • In the EU, a total of 30 % of road freight transported over distances greater than 300 km should shift to other modes such as rail or waterborne transport by 2030, and more than 50 % should shift by 2050, facilitated by efficient and green freight corridors. 

Related policy documents

  • 7th Environment Action Programme
    DECISION No 1386/2013/EU OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL of 20 November 2013 on a General Union Environment Action Programme to 2020 ‘Living well, within the limits of our planet’. In November 2013, the European Parliament and the European Council adopted the 7 th EU Environment Action Programme to 2020 ‘Living well, within the limits of our planet’. This programme is intended to help guide EU action on the environment and climate change up to and beyond 2020 based on the following vision: ‘In 2050, we live well, within the planet’s ecological limits. Our prosperity and healthy environment stem from an innovative, circular economy where nothing is wasted and where natural resources are managed sustainably, and biodiversity is protected, valued and restored in ways that enhance our society’s resilience. Our low-carbon growth has long been decoupled from resource use, setting the pace for a safe and sustainable global society.’
  • A European Strategy for Low-Emission Mobility
    Transport is the backbone of the economy, an enabler of growth and jobs, essential for the functioning of the single market and the free movement of goods and people. Market integration, economic growth and transport activity are strongly related. The global transition towards a low-carbon economy has started, supported by the Paris Climate Agreement. Transport will need to play an important role in this transition. The transition towards a low-carbon economy also represents a major opportunity for jobs and growth in the transport sector, as markets for low-emission mobility grow globally. This transition will be supported by a number of disruptive trends, such as digitalisation and new technologies. Transport is increasingly becoming an on-demand service as consumer needs and perceptions of mobility solutions evolve. Taken together, these trends also imply important competitiveness challenges and significant effort will be required from businesses and regulators to turn them into growth and employment opportunities for Europe. A forward looking and long-term policy approach with the aim of ensuring a regulatory and business environment that is conducive to meeting the competitiveness challenges that the transition to low-emission mobility implies is a vital precondition. The analysis carried out in this paper provides insights on the necessary tools to do this.
  • REGULATION (EC) No 443/2009 OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL 443/2009
    Regulation (ec) no 443/2009 of the European parliament and of the Council setting emission performance standards for new passenger cars as part of the community's integrated approach to reduce CO2 emissions from light-duty vehicles.
  • REGULATION (EU) No 510/2011
    REGULATION (EU) No 510/2011 OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL setting emission performance standards for new light commercial vehicles as part of the Union's integrated approach to reduce CO 2 emissions from light-duty vehicles
  • Transport White paper 2011
    Roadmap to a Single European Transport Area - Towards a competitive and resource efficient transport system

Key policy question

Is transport demand being decoupled from economic growth?

Specific policy question

Is public transport increasing as a proportion of total passenger transport?

Specific policy question

Is road freight being reduced relative to other transport modes?

Methodology

Methodology for indicator calculation

In order to measure the decoupling of passenger demand from economic growth, the volume of passenger transport relative to GDP (i.e. the intensity) is calculated. 

The annual pkm/tkm growth rate is therefore compared with the annual GDP growth rate. Relative decoupling occurs when passenger and freight transport demand grows at a rate below that of GDP. Absolute decoupling occurs when passenger and freight transport demand falls and GDP continues to rise or remains constant. If demand and GDP both fall, they remain coupled.

Transport demand and GDP are shown as an index (for freight transport demand: 2000=100; GDP at 2010 prices). 

A detailed description of the concepts used and data collected in the transport database can be found inEurostat's concepts and definitions database.

Methodology for gap filling

No gap filling is required for this indicator.

Methodology references

Data specifications

EEA data references

  • No datasets have been specified here.

External data references

Data sources in latest figures

Uncertainties

Methodology uncertainty

To understand whether or not transport demand is being decoupled from economic growth, the intensity of transport demand relative to changes in real GDP is analysed. A reduction in intensity should signal the relative decoupling of transport demand from economic growth.

A decoupling indicator analyses pressures on the environment because of changes in the relevant economical variables to which  environmental pressures are causally linked. This indicator compares the growth in pkm as a proxy of the pressures on the environment caused by transport. It is considered a good proxy; however, it is known to be inaccurate as pkm/tkm values in isolation do not fully explain the environmental pressures. 

Data sets uncertainty

Figures on pkm/tkm travelled by air are available as an EU-28 aggregate only. Air pkm/tkm are a provisional estimate for domestic flights and flights between EU countries. Figures for freight transport by road, rail, bus and inland waterway are available separately for all EU-28 Member States. The sources used by the European Commission (DG-MOVE) include national statistics, estimates, the International Transport Forum and Eurostat.

Rationale uncertainty

Even if two countries have the same transport intensity, or show the same trend over time, the environmental effects can be different. The link to environmental impact has to be assessed on the basis of the energy consumption and fuels used to satisfy demand, and the technology used, in addition to the new infrastructure-related impacts. 

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.

General metadata

Responsibility and ownership

EEA Contact Info

Diana Vedlugaite

Ownership

European Environment Agency (EEA)

Identification

Indicator code
CSI 056
TERM 039
Specification
Version id: 1
Primary theme: Transport Transport

Frequency of updates

Updates are scheduled once per year

Classification

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

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