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Are we moving in the right direction? Indicators on transport and environmental integration in the EU: TERM 2000

Transport supply

Group 4: Transport supply

TERM indicators


DPSIR Assessment

12. Capacity of infrastructure networks

- maximise the use of existing capacity
- revitalise rail and inland waterways


13. Transport infrastructure investments

- prioritise environment-friendly transport systems


positive trend (moving towards objective)

some positive development (but insufficient to meet objective)

unfavourable trend (large distance from objective)

? quantitative data not available or insufficient

Group policy context

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 investments are also seen as important in reducing disparities between the regions. Infrastructure investment is claimed to have socio-economic benefits such as job creation and productivity improvement, but the evidence for this is weak and disputed (DETR/SACTRA, 1999).

Transport investment policies during recent decades have focused on extending infrastructure, particularly roads, as a response to increasing traffic demand. However, the assumption that investment should keep pace with traffic growth is more and more questioned, in particular since there is evidence that new transport infrastructure (particularly roads) generates demand, and often serves simply to shift congestion problems from one place or point in time to another (ECMT, 1997).

More recently the CTP has introduced certain ‘sustainability’ objectives, such as using existing infrastructure more efficiently and re-directing demand towards modes with spare capacity (and with environmental and safety advantages). The development of an integrated transport system (the TEN), the revitalisation of rail, combined transport and inland waterways should contribute to this.

The key EU infrastructure strategies are:

  • Master plans for the multi-modal trans-European transport Network (TEN), first outlined in the ‘TEN guidelines (CEC, 1996c). The main objective of TEN is to develop a better integrated transport system in the EU, and hence to contribute to growth, competitiveness and employment in Europe, with the additional aim of improving economic and social cohesion by better linking of peripheral regions to EU networks.
  • The Commission is preparing a White Paper on the future revision of the TEN guidelines to complement the new financial regulation recently proposed in the context of Agenda 2000. This revision will also prepare for the extension of the TEN to applicant countries through the Transport Infrastructure Needs Assessment process (TINA).
  • The Commission’s strategy for revitalising the Community’s railways includes initiatives such as the launch of ‘freight freeways’ and the Directive on the inter-operability of the trans-European high-speed rail system.
  • The Commission has also proposed new rules for combined transport and will put forward proposals and actions to develop intermodal transport further.

Group findings

Figure 4.1: Investments in transport infrastructure in bn ECU (EU)

Source: European Conference of Ministers of Transport (1999)

  • Current investment plans only partially reflect the Community aim of promoting rail and inland waterway transport. The allocation of investment between road and rail has remained virtually constant since 1987, with road accounting for some 62 % of investments and rail about 27 %. But the much higher level of road investment has resulted in a transport network dominated by road.
  • While infrastructure length is only a proxy measure for capacity, the steady increase in the length of the road infrastructure since 1970 (with motorways growing by more than 50 % while the length of conventional railway lines and inland waterways decreased by about 8 %), shows that road capacity has expanded to the detriment of rail and inland waterways.
  • Although rail receives a larger share of total investment than its share of total transport demand, this has not been enough to counter the gradual reduction in the supply, quality and reliability of rail in some countries. The extension of high-speed rail infrastructure is however expected to enhance the capacity of the rail system (between 1990 and 1997, the length of the high-speed links of the TEN rail programme increased by 150 %).
  • TEN investment has focused on rail and roads (39 % and 38 % respectively of total investment in 1996/97), with airports taking nearly 16 % and seaports and inland waterways only 7 %. The TEN road programme is well ahead of the corresponding rail programme. In 1996/97, 55 % of total Community TEN funding was for road infrastructure.
  • No strategic assessment of TEN’s environmental and socio-economic costs and benefits has yet been undertaken.



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