Press Release

Transport in the EU -- heading down a dead end street?

Press Release Published 16 May 2000 Last modified 28 Jun 2016
3 min read

Press release

Copenhagen, 16 May 2000

Transport in the EU -- heading down a dead end street?

New report highlights environmental threats of present transport trends.

Urgent concerns about the expansion and growth of the EU's transport infrastructure are expressed in a new report published by the European Environment Agency. Much of the gain achieved through regulating vehicle and fuel standards is being outweighed by increasing transport volumes and heavier and more powerful vehicles, says the report. It is the first output of the the Transport and Environment Reporting Mechanism (TERM), set up by the Commission and the EEA at the suggestion of the joint Transport and Environment Council to gauge progress of integration policies in the transport sector.

The first TERM report ("Are we moving in the right Direction? Indicators on transport and environment integration in the EU") says transport has become one of the major contributors to several important environment impacts: climate change, acidification, local air pollution, loss in biodiversity and noise. CO2 emissions in the EU have increased by 40% since 1985 as a result of traffic growth (in particular of road and air traffic), the use of heavier and more powerful cars, and the linked growth in energy consumption.

Emissions are expected to increase by a further 30% by 2010. Environmental regulations have since the early 1990s led to a decrease in emissions of NOx and NMVOCs, but additional efforts are still needed to meet the EU emission reduction targets. While individual cars and lorries are as much as 90% less noisy than in the 1970s, noise remains a problem because of the doubling of traffic volumes in that same period. More than 30% of the EU's population is subjected to high road traffic noise, about 10% to high rail noise and about the same proportion to noise from air traffic.

Only 48% of the petrol-driven cars in the EU are fitted with a catalytic converter. A major success story is the phase-out of leaded petrol, which is expected to be completed by 2005, it says. An average of 10 hectares of land per day are taken for new motorways, which have grown by more than 50% since 1970 while, at the same time, the length of conventional railway lines and inland waterways has decreased by 8%.

Transport infrastructure now covers 1.2% of the total EU land area. The number of road fatalities -- 44,000 throughout the EU in 1996 -- has been falling since the 1970s, but the rate of improvement has slowed in the past few years, again due to the growth in passenger transport volumes, with the EU car fleet increasing by 150% since 1970, bringing car ownership to 454 per 1,000 people.

Increased policy impetus is needed to reduce the link between transport demand and economic growth and to shift the balance towards less environment-damaging transport modes. This requires more preventative actions to be taken by the sectoral (transport and planning) ministries. If policies are to integrate environmental and other sustainability concerns into transport decision-making, key indicators must be identified so that the success and failure of these policies can be measured. TERM sets out 31 indicators to answer seven basic questions in an attempt to monitor progress and highlight changes in key leverage points for policy intervention.

The report calls for improvements in the compiling and reporting of data in order to achieve a better understanding of the causal links between the driving forces of transport demand, how these exert pressures and impact on the environment and people, and the effectiveness of policy responses to remedy these pressures and impacts. The setting of quantifiable intermediate and long-term transport and environmental targets is another prerequisite.

A statistical compendium compiled by Eurostat supplements the EEA report and gives additional background data.

Further information: Project Manager Ann Dom, EEA, phone +45 33 36 71 31,

The full report is also available on the EEA website at



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