5. Transport

indicator policy issue DPSIR assessment
transport eco-efficiency has the sector been successful in becoming more environmentally efficient? pressure
passenger transport demand has the modal splidt developed towards more environmentally friendly modes? driving force
freight transport demand has the modal split developed towards more environmentally friendly modes? driving force
price of transport fuels are fuel prices developing in a direction stimulating less use of road transport? driving force

Rapidly growing transport volumes, especially for road transport and aviation, have over the past decades offset environmental gains from technology improvements. Demand management policies are needed to de-link transport growth from economic growth and to improve the balance between various modes of transport. Current transport revenues only partly cover the significant external costs of the sector, and current prices tend to favour private road transport over public transport.

Essential for economic activity and welfare, transport is contributing more and more significantly to a number of environmental and human-health problems — particularly climate change, acidification, ground-level ozone formation, local air pollution, noise, land take and habitat disruption. The Common Transport Policy (European Commission, 1998) offers a framework to bring together the supply of a secure transport system with environmental and safety improvements. In a recent policy statement on the Common Transport Policy for 2000-2004, the European Commission stated that it: `will give particular attention to measures designed to reduce the dependence of economic growth on increases in transport activity and any such increases on energy consumption, as well as the development of less environmentally damaging energy alternatives for transport'.

5.1. Transport eco-efficiency

Transport is highly reliant on the use of non-renewable fossil fuels and is therefore a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions (particularly carbon dioxide emissions; Figure 5.1). Energy and carbon dioxide efficiency (i.e. energy use per passenger and per freight transport unit) has shown little or no improvement since the early 1970s (Figure 5.2). The increasing use of heavier and more powerful vehicles — together with decreasing occupancy rates and load factors — has outweighed increases in vehicle energy efficiency due to technological advances. As a result, growing transport volumes led to about a 14 % increase in energy consumption and a 12 % increase in carbon dioxide emissions between 1990 and 1996. These trends show that to reduce the sector's energy consumption and emissions, policies should now focus on demand-management measures to curb growing transport volumes together with technical efficiency improvements.

Figure 5.1. Transport environmental profile in EU Member States, 1996

Source: EEA-ETC/AE and Eurostat

By 2010, transport is expected to be the largest single contributor to EU greenhouse gas emissions. This may jeopardise the EU's achievement of its target of an 8 % reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2008-2012 under the Kyoto Protocol (see Chapter 8).

On the positive side, emissions of non-methane volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides have been falling since 1990 (Figure 5.2) — mainly due to the introduction of catalytic converters in vehicle exhausts. However, the decrease has been slower than expected as increasing transport demand has partly offset engine improvements. Transport continues to be a major contributor to acidification and air-quality problems (Figure 5.1). In future, a significant further reduction of road emissions is expected to be realised through the implementation of directives resulting from the Auto-Oil programme (see Chapter 10).

Traffic noise is a key urban problem, but harmonised country information is not available. However, it is estimated that over 30 % of people in the EU are exposed to high road-traffic noise levels, ± 10 % of people to high rail noise levels, and possibly a similar proportion to aircraft noise. Transport infrastructure takes land and may constitute a barrier against the movement of species. It thus has a direct influence on the occurrence and distribution of animal and plant species (see Figure 14.3).

Figure 5.2. Transport eco-efficiency (air emissions) in EU Member States

: EEA-ETC/AE and Eurostat

Limited improvements in transport eco-efficiency have occurred in EU Member States.

5.2. Trends in transport

Passenger and freight transport have more than doubled over the past 25 years, with the strongest growth being in air and road transport (Figure 5.3, Figure 5.4 and Table 5.1). During recent decades there has been a dramatic shift towards road transport: the car increased its share of passenger transport from 65 % to 74 % between 1970 and 1997, and trucks now account for 45 % of total freight transport compared with 30 % in 1970.

Between 1970 and 1997, passenger and freight transport in the EU increased by an annual average of 2.8 % and 2.6 % respectively, while GDP growth over the same period was 2.5 %. For road and air-passenger travel particularly, the boost in demand can be attributed to higher incomes, a fall in transport prices in real terms and changes in travel patterns (for example as a result of urban sprawl). In turn, the demand and intensity of freight transport is closely linked to changes in the volume and structure of the economy and to infrastructure supply.

Infrastructure supply strategies (resulting in an increase in motorway length by 195 % between 1970 and 1996, while rail infrastructure lengths declined slightly) have over the past decades enhanced the shift to road transport. Actions under the EU Common Transport Policy to revitalise rail and to promote inland waterways, combined transport and public transport have not yet managed to break this trend. However, some positive signs can be noted, such as better performance from short-sea shipping and more high-speed rail lines. Better coordination of transport and spatial planning (urban and regional), and the use of telecommunications would also help to increase accessibility while at the same time reducing the need for mobility. However, these demand-management measures are poorly reflected in the Common Transport Policy.

Figure 5.3. Passenger transport in EU Member States

Source: Eurostat

Figure 5.4. Freight transport in EU Member States

Source: Eurostat

Passenger and freight transport volumes have more than doubled over the past 25 years. Road transport is the most important mode of transport.

5.3. Prices and taxes

Pricing is one of the key policy tools for promoting an environment-friendly balance between different forms of transport.

However, current prices tend to favour private road transport over public transport. For example, rail and bus fares have increased more rapidly than gross domestic product (GDP) over the past decade, while the price of driving a private car has largely remained stable (EEA, 2000). This distribution of prices between private and public services is partly because road-transport fuel prices (the perceived marginal cost of driving a private car) have increased only slightly during the 1990s (Figure 3.5 and Figure 5.5). A number of strategies to achieve fair and efficient pricing were initiated in the Common Transport Policy action plan 1995-2000.

Current transport revenues only partly cover the sector's significant external costs. The external costs caused by road and rail noise, local air pollution, climate change and accidents are estimated at around 4 % of GDP; infrastructure wear and tear and congestion add to this economic loss. Costs not borne by consumers in 1991 are estimated to have been 70 % of the total for road and 62 % for rail (EEA, 1999). It is expected that internalisation of external costs will result in technological improvements and increases in operational and organisational efficiency. The overall effect on demand for mobility and modal shares is likely to be smaller and will also depend on the provision of efficient alternatives, e.g. to road transport. It is estimated that transport volumes (both passenger and freight transport) would be 10-15 % lower in the medium term under an internalisation policy than if current trends continued (ECMT, 1998).

Fuel taxes provide the biggest contribution to revenues from all environmental taxes (energy, pollution and transport taxes (see Chapter 15). Fuel prices vary substantially between Member States, with some countries showing an upward and some a downward trend. Fuel taxes are mainly used to encourage a shift towards more environment-friendly fuels. Fuel tax differentiation has, for instance, been a major factor in the phasing-out of leaded petrol in the EU. In 1998, leaded petrol was 4-17 % more expensive than unleaded petrol and up to 58 % more expensive than diesel. As a result, the market share of unleaded petrol reached 75 % in 1997 and leaded petrol is expected to be completely phased out by 2005. Increased fuel taxes tend to stimulate energy savings through technical-efficiency improvements and thus reduce fuel demand.

Figure 5.5. Prices of transport fuels in EU Member States

Price of leaded petrol

Price of unleaded petrol

Price of diesel automotive fuel

Source: Eurostat
Note: Based on the 1990 rate for the ECU. Leaded petrol is no longer sold in Austria, Denmark, Finland, Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden.

Prices of transport fuels have increased only slightly since 1990.

One way of making existing transport tax structures more efficient is by shifting from national charges (e.g. annual vehicle excise duties) towards more territorial charges (e.g. road pricing through distance charges or tolls). Introduction of marginal cost-based charges, such as electronic kilometre charges for trucks, is deemed necessary to complement fuel taxes (ECMT, 1999). Road pricing is already applied to motorways in some countries and, in a few cases, in inner city areas. However, the share of revenues from transport taxes (which excludes taxes on motor fuels) in the total general tax burden did not change between 1980 and 1997 (see Figure 15.2), demonstrating the lack of a clear-cut shift to green tax reform in this area.

Price changes are only one factor influencing transport demand: convenience and security also have a strong influence on individual decisions over whether and how to travel.

Cycle-friendly employers in Nottingham

Car travel is increasing throughout Europe, but over half of all car journeys are less than 6 km in length and 10 % are for local trips covering distances of less than 1 000 metres. Short car journeys are particularly bad for the environment.

In the UK, a fifth of all cars on the road contain people travelling to and from work. Several major cycling charities — including Sustrans and the Cycle Touring Club — have teamed up to provide employers with information on how to draw up Green Commuter Plans for their employees. Advice is given on access routes, safe parking, raising awareness among employees, providing changing facilities and offering incentives to use bicycles and public transport for business trips.

Poor safety on the road is often mentioned as a key obstacle to cycling to work. In Nottingham, the Boots Company plc contributed to a shared cycle/pedestrian path leading to a site entrance. Other companies in Nottingham have provided money to improve the city's cycling infrastructure.

Source: Sustrans information sheet on cycle friendly employers.

Results of a travel survey in Nottingham of factors encouraging commuting by bicycle

5.4. Indicator development

This chapter contains some of the 31 indicators on transport and environment integration being developed within the EU Transport and Environment Reporting Mechanism (TERM) (EEA, 2000). Improved accuracy and consistency of air emissions estimates is a priority — particularly for greenhouse gases. Improved breakdowns by transport mode are still needed for many of the environmental pressure indicators.

Future work will include improving or adding TERM indicators on health impacts of air pollution from transport, traffic noise annoyance, habitat fragmentation, transport prices and taxes, transport externalities and energy efficiency of passenger and freight transport. Analysis of the effectiveness of the use of response measures such as economic instruments (prices, subsidies, taxes) would also be desirable.

Table 5.1. Average annual car-passenger transport per capita
Unit: 1 000 passenger-km/capita
  1980 1990 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997
Austria 6.3 8.1


8.5 8.5 8.5 8.2 8.3
Belgium 6.6 8.1 8.4 8.6 8.8 9.0 9.1


Denmark 7.4 10.4 10.9 11.1 11.4 11.7 12.1 12.4
Finland 7.1 10.3 10.0 9.8 9.7 9.8 9.8 10.0
France 8.4 10.3 10.8 11.0 11.2 11.4 11.6 11.7
Germany 6.6 8.6 8.9 9.0 8.9 8.9 8.9 9.0
Greece 2.9 4.8 4.9 5.2 5.4 5.6 5.9 6.1
Ireland 8.2 10.4 10.9 11.2 11.5 11.8 12.1 12.5
Italy 5.7 9.2 10.6 10.6 10.5 10.7 10.8 11.0
Luxembourg 7.4 10.5 11.0 11.3 11.4 11.5 11.3 11.5
Netherlands 7.6 9.1 9.1 9.2 9.5 9.5 9.4 9.7
Portugal 4.2 6.6 7.3 8.4 9.1 10.0 10.6 11.0
Spain 5.1 7.3 7.8 8.0 8.1 8.4 8.6 8.9
Sweden 8.0 10.5 10.6 10.4 9.6 9.9 10.5 10.6
UK 7.0 10.4 10.3 10.2 10.3 10.4 10.6 10.7
EU 6.6 9.1 9.5 9.6 9.7 9.8 9.9 10.1
Source DG Transport; Eurostat

5.5. References and further reading

ECMT (1998). Efficient transport for Europe — policies for internalisation of external costs. European Conference of Ministers of Transport, Paris.

ECMT (1999): Efficient transport taxes: international comparison of the taxation of freight and passenger transport by road and rail. (In preparation). Paris.

EEA (1999). Environment in the European Union at the turn of the century. European Environment Agency, Copenhagen.

EEA (2000). Are we moving in the right direction? Indicators on transport and environment integration in the EU. (In preparation). European Environment Agency, Copenhagen.

European Commission (1995). Towards fair and efficient pricing in transport. (COM(95)691. European Commission, Brussels.

European Commission (1998). The Common Transport Policy — sustainable mobility: perspective for the future. European Commission, Brussels.


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