Indicator Assessment

Passenger transport demand

Indicator Assessment
Prod-ID: IND-35-en
  Also known as: CSI 035 , TERM 012
Published 07 Sep 2010 Last modified 11 May 2021
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This page was archived on 17 Jan 2019 with reason: Other (Replaced by: Passenger and freight transport demand (CSI056/TERM039))

Passenger transport demand in the EEA-32 continues to grow, but at a slower pace than GDP indicating a decoupling between these two metrics. The latest data shows that since 2002 air passenger transport has been growing at a much faster rate than any other mode of passenger transport.

This indicator is discontinued. No more assessments will be produced.

Passenger transport modal split

Note: Passenger transport modal split, excluding Cyprus and Malta

Data source:

Eurostat - Statistical Office of the European Communities. Transport demand by mode.


Figure 1 shows that over the past decade, passenger transport growth has been slower on average than the growth in the economy. However, passenger transport is still continuing to grow, thereby making it increasingly difficult to stabilise or reduce the environmental impacts of transport.
A growth in car passenger kilometres was observed in the majority of EEA-32 countries between 2006 and 2007. However Hungary, Iceland, Lithuania, Slovakia and Switzerland showed a decrease during this period.  The biggest increase in car passenger transport demand during the period 1997 and 2007 was observed in Lithuania, where demand increased by more than a factor of 3.

Between 1997 and 2007, bus demand increased the most in Latvia and Luxembourg (54 %), while Slovakia, Slovenia, the Netherlands and Poland experienced the largest decline in bus demand across Europe (22 %, 19 %, 19 % and 17 % from 1997 levels respectively).

The overall increase in rail demand in EEA-32 was 15 %. However there were marked contrasts between regions, with the EU-15 overall displaying an increase in rail passenger demand and the EU-12 showing a fall. For example, Sweden, Ireland and the UK experienced the highest increase in rail passenger kilometres over the decade from 1997 to 2007 (46 %, 45 % and 43 % respectively), whereas Bulgaria, Romania and Lithuania experienced the biggest fall in rail transport demand between 1997 and 2007.

Car transport accounted for a large proportion of inland passenger transport among the member states for which data is available (Figure 2). The reliance on the car was particularly strong in Lithuania, Iceland and Norway, where it accounted for more than 88% of passenger kilometres in 2007.

Supporting information

Indicator definition

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

'Modal split' is defined as the proportion of total pkm allocated to different transport modes every year.

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



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. 

Gross domestic product (GDP) is expressed in constant euros, indexed to the year 2005.

Passenger transport demand and GDP are shown as an index (2005 = 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). For the oldest indicators (i.e. before 2010), passenger transport demand and GDP are shown as an index (2000 = 100).


Policy context and targets

Context description

The EU has set itself the objective of decoupling economic growth from passenger 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.


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.

Related policy documents



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.

Methodology for gap filling

No need for gap filling

Methodology references

No methodology references available.



Methodology uncertainty

To understand whether or not passenger demand is being decoupled from economic growth, the intensity of passenger 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 with changes in the relevant economical variables, to which the 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 values in isolation do not fully explain the environmental pressures. 


Data sets uncertainty

Figures on pkm travelled by air are available as an EU-28 aggregate only. Air pkm are a provisional estimate for domestic flights and flights between EU countries. Figures for car, bus and rail travel 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 passenger transport intensity, or show the same trend over time, there could be important environmental differences between them. The link to environmental impact has to be complemented on the basis of the energy consumption and fuels used to satisfy passenger demand, and the technology used, in addition to the new infrastructure-related impacts.

Data sources

Other info

DPSIR: Driving force
Typology: Descriptive indicator (Type A - What is happening to the environment and to humans?)
Indicator codes
  • CSI 035
  • TERM 012
Frequency of updates
This indicator is discontinued. No more assessments will be produced.
EEA Contact Info


Geographic coverage

Temporal coverage