Indicator Assessment

Real change in transport price by mode (33.1)

Indicator Assessment
Prod-ID: IND-339-en
Published 13 Apr 2012 Last modified 11 May 2021
6 min read

This item is open for comments. Login with your Eionet account in order to see and add comments. See comments section below

This page was archived on 09 Feb 2021 with reason: Other (Discontinued indicator)

Sustainable modes of transport are not becoming more affordable than unsustainable ones, and in the case of air travel, the reverse is true. 

Indexed consumer prices for passenger transport

Note: A time series for transport related prices using as index year 1998

Data source:

The costs of all modes of transport have increased since 1998 by between 45-70%. While road transport has experienced the highest price increase over this period, railways and ferries - more sustainable transport modes – have also become more expensive by a similar degree.  It is important to note that this is more relevant in the case of railways than ferries: rail can compete directly with road transport in many instances, while the same cannot be said for ferries.

More alarmingly, the price of air travel – the least sustainable transport option - while increasing over the period, has done so at a lower rate than all other modes of transport, making it relatively more affordable. The price of air transport even dropped between 2008-2009, reflecting the competitiveness of the market and excess of capacity, but has since resumed a modest price increase. In addition, the change in the price of air travel reasonably closely mirrors the fluctuations in fuel price, although the indicator does not provide evidence of a causal effect. The purchase price of vehicles has changed little since 1998.

Together, this indicator paints a picture of less sustainable transport modes becoming more affordable relative to forms of transport considered to be more sustainable.

The most recent assessment of the EEA’s TERM020 indicator, published in November 2010 shows a similar outlook for the costs of transport.  However, it indicates that the purchase cost for vehicles has become cheaper over the same time span. This could be due to retrospective adjustments in the raw data maintained by Eurostat between that assessment and this.

Supporting information

Indicator definition

This indicator illustrates the change in the consumer price of transport by mode between 1998 and 2009. It includes the price of four transport modes (Air, Road, Rail, Ferry), the price of fuel and the purchase price of vehicles. This is based on the Harmonised Indices of Consumer Prices (HICPs), a set of European Union Consumer Price Indices calculated according to a harmonised approach and a single set of definitions. The HICP was launched in order to provide a comparable measure of consumer price inflation in the EU. It provides the only official measure of consumer price inflation in the euro-zone for the purposes of monetary policy.


This indicator is expressed in Harmonised Indices of Consumer Prices (HICP), indexed to 1998.


Policy context and targets

Context description

The question is indirectly connected to the issue of ‘getting the price right’ such that the price of goods truly reflects their environmental and social costs. This is addressed by the European Communication on the Resource Efficiency Flagship:‘resources are often used inefficiently because the information about the true costs to society of consuming them is not available with the result that businesses and individuals cannot adapt their behaviour accordingly. Policy measures to improve resource efficiency and overall economic competitiveness must place greater emphasis on 'getting prices right' and making them transparent to consumers, for instance in transport, energy and water usage, so that prices reflect the full costs of resource use to society (e.g. in terms of environment and health) and do not create perverse incentives’.

The issue is also addressed in the Roadmap to a Resource Efficient Europe under Sustainable consumption and production. In particular, the milestone: “By 2020, citizens and public authorities have the right incentives to choose the most resource efficient products and services, through appropriate price signals and clear environmental information.”

More directly, the issue is addressed for food products in documents regarding the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). E.g., the EC Agricultural Policy Perspectives Brief on The future of CAP direct payments states, that direct payments are linked to environmental issues via cross compliance criteria. The direct payments used to be direct price support until 2003, when other functions were integrated into the direct payment policy. But still it serves the affordability of foodstuffs with an integrated perspective towards sustainability.


No policy targets or objectives have been identified for this indicator.

Related policy documents

No related policy documents have been specified



Methodology for indicator calculation

In order to create the index for transport consumer prices for year 1998, the values of HICP (index 2005) for EU 27 countries was used as a basis. From this raw data, the value for each year is divided by the value for year 1998 and then multiplied by 100 to give an index-based indicator.

Methodology for gap filling

No gap filling was necessary for producing this indicator from the Eurostat database.

Methodology references

No methodology references available.



Methodology uncertainty

No uncertainty has been identified in the methodology used by the EEA to process the source data.

Data sets uncertainty

For information on uncertainty in the HICP data set please see:

Rationale uncertainty

Ideally, indicators addressing this policy question should feature functionally comparable and potentially interchangeable products. Although there is some level of functional crossover between the modes of transport addressed above, in some cases they can not be said to be functionally comparable.

The indicator only showschangesin costs of transport modes since 1998, and does not provide information on the relative absolute costs of each mode of transport. Nor does it directly illustrate or allow evaluation of the sustainability of the included transport modes. 

Data sources

  • No datasets have been specified.

Other info

DPSIR: Response
Typology: Performance indicator (Type B - Does it matter?)
Indicator codes
  • SCP 039
EEA Contact Info


Geographic coverage

Temporal coverage





Document Actions