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Brussels, 17 June 2009

Memo: Future of Transport Communication


The Commission issued in 2001 a White Paper 1 setting an agenda for transport policy throughout 2010. This programme was updated in 2006 2 . It is now time to take stock and define a vision for the future of transport and mobility in order to prepare new transport policy orientations for the next ten years. These orientations must be based on a wide reflection on the future of the transport system. The Commission has launched such a reflection, which included external studies evaluating past policies and defining future scenarios, as well as consultations with experts and stakeholders through specialised focus groups and through a high level stakeholders’ conference that took place on 9-10 March 2009 3 .

The ideas put forward in this Communication are meant to stimulate further debate aimed at identifying policy options, without prejudging the formulation of concrete proposals in the next White Paper of 2010.

Future challenges

It is difficult to anticipate which factors will have the greatest influence in shaping the future of transport, but there are some key trends in our society that will certainly pose challenges to our mobility system: ageing, migration, environmental sustainability, fossil fuel scarcity, urbanisation and globalisation.

By 2060, the number of people aged 65 or more is expected to represent 30% of the population as opposed to 17% today. While an ageing society will place more emphasis on the provision of secure and reliable transport services featuring appropriate solutions for users with reduced mobility, a higher ratio of older people will mean that more public resources will have to be devoted to pension payments, health care and nursing, to the detriment of funding available to public transport and maintenance of transport infrastructure.

Net migration to the EU might add significantly to the EU’s population in the next five decades. Migration will mainly concern the urban areas and will further intensify Europe’s ties with the migrants' countries of origin. These links will entail more movement of people and goods. Mobility of workers within the Union is also expected to increase with the gradual removal of administrative and legal barriers and the further development of the EU internal labour market.

Improving the environmental performance of transport is key to mitigating climate change. There is a growing urgency for the transport sector to reduce greenhouse gas emissions . The EU has recently adopted a Climate and Energy package that sets a target of reducing GHG emission in the EU by 20% compared to levels in 1990 .

Oil is expected to become more expensive in the coming decades , as a result of an increase in demand and a dry up of low-cost sources. The need to move to a low-carbon economy and the growing concerns about energy security will bring about a greater supply of renewable energy, made much cheaper by technological progress and mass production.

Urbanisation has been a clear trend in the past decades and is expected to continue. Linked to that is the phenomenon of congestion, affecting mainly agglomerations and their access routes. Congestion is estimated to cost the EU about 1% of its Gross Domestic Product .

The further increase in transport driven by the economic growth of many developing countries, and a world population expected to exceed nine billion by 2050 will have a tremendous impact on global resources, making the goal of setting up a more sustainable transport system all the more important. Some studies suggest that the number of cars in the world will increase from about 700 million today to more than three billion in 2050, unless a different concept of mobility is introduced.

Broad objectives and policy instruments

The European transport policy aims to establish a sustainable transport system that meets society’s economic, social and environmental needs and that is conducive to an inclusive society and a fully integrated and competitive Europe. To achieve this objective and meet the challenges of the future, the different transport modes will need to be better integrated to allow each mode to do what it does best, and the development of innovative technologies will need to be accelerated to improve the efficiency and sustainability of transport without compromising on quality or comfort. In addition transport users and employees, with their needs and rights, should always be kept at the centre of policy making.

  • More specifically the Communication suggests that the transport system of the future has to:

  • Better integrate the different transport modes. The different transport modes have to be adapted so that they complement each other and each mode can focus on what it does best. This will result in greater efficiency and increased sustainability. Passengers and freight companies can choose the mode that best suits their needs for each part of their journey.

  • Send the right price signals . A better pricing system should be introduced that gives correct incentives to users, planners and investors, while providing the resources for sustainable transport. This means prices should also reflect the negative impact transport can have on society, such as pollution.

  • Use technology to accelerate the transition to a low-carbon society. Science and industry are already very active in searching solutions for transport safety, fuel dependency, vehicle emissions and network congestion. Policy makers have to put in place the necessary framework conditions to introduce promising technologies on the market without giving undue advantage to any specific alternative.. This requires setting open standards, ensuring interoperability, increasing research and development expenditures for technologies that are not yet mature for market application, defining a clear legal and regulatory framework and promoting best practice examples.

  • Promote further market opening . Market opening generally leads to more efficiency and lower costs. This can be seen in air transport where the process is more advanced: intra-EU routes have increased by 120% between 1992 and 2008. Intra-EU routes with more than two competitors increased by 320% in the same period. Low-cost carriers represent today over a third of total intra-EU scheduled capacity. Market opening brings lower prices and/or better quality of the services and this favours in turn the sector The Commission has accompanied this increased opening of the market with a strengthening of passenger rights. The regulation for aviation and rail is already in place, while those for people travelling by water or by bus is being worked on.

  • Inform travellers about the different transport possibilities . Transport policies have a very direct impact on peoples’ lives and tend to be highly controversial: citizens should be given better information on the reasoning behind policy decisions and on the available alternatives. A better understanding of the challenges ahead is a precondition for public acceptance of the solutions

  • Harmonise actions at all levels . Many new technologies and regulatory practices will develop in the next few years to address transport challenges. Coordination will be needed to ensure equipments’ interoperability and to avoid the proliferation of different systems at national level, for example rules and standards for tolling, for ITS or for access to congested areas.

  • Facilitate transport solutions for urban areas . For subsidiarity reasons, the EU's role in regulating urban transport is limited. However, most transport starts and ends in cities, and interconnection and standardisation issues do not stop at city limits. Cooperation at EU level can help urban authorities in rendering their transport systems more sustainable. There are a range of activities and fields where the EU can promote the exchange of best practices, support demonstration projects, and provide a framework in which it will be easier for local authorities to take measures.

  • Attune transport policy to the EU's neighbouring countries . The transport sector is increasingly international. The European transport policy needs therefore to think and act internationally to ensure further integration with its neighbouring countries and advance Europe’s economic and environmental interests in the global context

Background: Transport facts and figures

Transport is an essential component of the European economy. The transport industry at large accounts for about 7% of GDP and for more than 5% of total employment in the EU 4 . This does not include transport carried out on own account.

The European Transport Policy (ETP) has contributed to a mobility system that compares well in terms of efficiency and effectiveness with that of the economically most advanced regions of the world. The EU has one of the densest and most developed transport networks in the world. There are more than 60,000 km of motorways in a total road network of about five million km. The total length of railway lines is about 215,000 km, including 5,500 km on which high-speed trains can run faster than 250 km/h (UIC definition of high speed). Inland waterways are navigable over more than 40,000 km.

A global comparison of the fuel efficiency of both cars on the road and of new cars 5 , show that cars on European roads on average consume 8.1 l of fuel per 100 km, cars in Japan require 10.2 l /100 km and the average car in the US needs 11.4 l/100 km (40% more than cars in Europe).

The labour productivity in the EU transport sector exceeds the average for the rest of the economy and compares well with that of the USA, being greater for inland and water transport and lower only for air transport 6 .

The transport system has met the challenge of uniting people and markets in the expanding European Union, being able to accommodate a pronounced growth in the demand for mobility. From 1995 to 2006, intra-EU freight transport, measured in tonne-kilometres, has increased by 2.8% per year on average while the average annual growth of intra-EU passenger transport, measured in passenger-kilometres, was 1.7%. This compares with an average GDP growth over the same period of 2.4% 7 .

Graph 1. Evolution of transport demand, GHG emissions from transport,
GDP and population between 1995 and 2006

Figures and graphics available in PDF and WORD PROCESSED

The growth of intra-EU road freight transport has been more dynamic (+ 3.5% on average per year since 1995) than the evolution of overall intra-EU freight transport. At 1.1%, rail freight showed the lowest annual growth rate of all modes. In recent years, rail has however started to catch up again, mostly in the already open markets. According to latest estimates by Eurostat, about one third of intra-EU freight transport and some three quarters of extra-EU freight transport are by sea.

Graph 2. Intra-EU freight and passenger transport by mode in 1995 and in 2006

Figures and graphics available in PDF and WORD PROCESSED

Figures and graphics available in PDF and WORD PROCESSED

The growth of transport activity raises concerns over its environmental sustainability. According to data from the EEA, transport accounted for close to a quarter (23.8%) of total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and slightly more than a quarter (27.9%) of total CO 2 emissions in the EU27 in 2006. Compared to 1990 levels, in no other sector has the growth rate of GHG emissions been as high as in transport. This can be explained with the relatively strong growth in transport activity over recent years and its failure to offset this growth by improving its energy efficiency or reducing its carbon intensity. As the transport sector relies on fossil fuels for almost 97% of its needs, the fight against climate change in this sector can go hand in hand with efforts to improve the security of supply of its energy needs.

Graph 7. Greenhouse Gas Emissions by Sector, EU-27, 1990-2006

Figures and graphics available in PDF and WORD PROCESSED

Source: EEA.

Road is by far the main emitter of GHG from transport. In 2006, it accounted for 71% of all GHG emissions from transport. Maritime and air transport follow with shares of 15 and 12% respectively. The emissions of rail transport do not include the emissions of power stations producing the electricity used in rail transport. If these emissions were taken into account, the share of rail would increase to about 1.6% 8 .

Graph 8. Greenhouse gas emissions from transport by mode of transport 9

Figures and graphics available in PDF and WORD PROCESSED

Source: EEA.

Households in the EU spend about 13.5% of their income on transport-related goods and services. Transport is the second biggest budget item after house-related expenditures (housing, electricity, water and gas, 21.4%). Its share has been stable over the past years 10 . Studies based on travel and mobility surveys point to a more or less constant amount of personal time devoted to transport: the average travel time budget per person is estimated to be about 1.1 hours a day 11 . It has hardly changed over the last 40 years and appears to be independent from people's income.

Walking and cycling are important modes of transport, in particular on trips up to one kilometre. In the Netherlands, for instance, 80% of all commuter journeys that are shorter than one kilometre are done by walking or cycling. The share of walking and cycling drops to around half for distances between one and five kilometres 12 . However, the Netherlands being a flat and relatively cycling-friendly country it is not representative of the whole EU.

Travel surveys show that the overwhelming majority of trips (97.5%) are "short" distance (not longer than 100 km). The remaining 2.5% of trips account however for more than half (53%) of all passenger kilometres 13 .

Road transport, which still causes the vast majority of all deaths due to transport and traffic, has also seen some improvement in its safety record: the number of road accidents involving personal injury has gone down between 1991 and 2007 by about 12%. More importantly, the number of road fatalities has in the same time decreased by more than 44%. However, there is still a lot to do to achieve the EU target of halving the number of road fatalities by 2010 compared to 2001 levels.

More and more road motor vehicles are driving on Europe’s roads. The stock of passenger cars in the EU-27 countries has gone up by around 40% since 1990 to reach a total of about 230 million in 2006. Motorisation levels have gone up by 35% from 345 cars per 1,000 inhabitants in 1990 to 466 cars per 1,000 inhabitants in 2006. Car ownership levels increase fastest in the new Member States which still have some catching up to do to reach the levels of the old Member States.

Urbanisation has increased over the past decades (51.2% in 1950, 72.2% in 2005 in Europe 14 ) and has modified transport needs. An urban environment shortens distances and allows for economies of agglomeration which, from a certain size and under certain conditions, can give rise to problems (congestion, high land prices and rents, insecurity). It is estimated that some 40% of total CO 2 emissions and 70% of emissions of other pollutants from road transport are due to urban traffic 15 .

Urban sprawl has accompanied the growth of urban areas across Europe over the past 50 years. Historical trends, since the mid-1950s, show that European cities have expanded on average by 78 %, whereas the population has grown by only 33% 16 . A major consequence of this trend is that European cities have become much less compact. Transport-related energy consumption is inversely correlated to the density of a city.

What’s next

The ideas put forward in the Communication are aimed at stimulating further debate. All interested parties are invited to submit their views to the mailbox: by 30 September 2009.

The results of the consultation will be presented at a stakeholder conference in autumn 2009 and will be used for the preparation in 2010 of a White Paper which will set out the policy agenda for the next decade.

1 :

COM (2001) 370 final.

2 :

COM (2006) 314 final.

3 :

All relevant documents can be downloaded at:

4 :

Of which 4.4% corresponding to transport services and the rest to transport equipment manufacturing, while 8.9 million jobs correspond to transport services and 3 million to transport equipment.

5 :

Lee Schipper: Automobile Fuel; Economy and CO 2 Emissions in Industrialized Countries: Troubling Trends through 2005/6. EMBARQ, the World Resources Institute Center for Sustainable Transport;

6 :

Source: D.Koszerek, K.Havik and others: An overview of the EU KLEMS Growth and Productivity Accounts. DG ECFIN, European Economy, No.290 – October 2007. “EU KLEMS” stands for EU level analysis of capital (K), labour (L), energy (E), material (M) and service (S) inputs.

7 :

Unless stated otherwise, the source of transport data is DG TREN (2008), EU energy and transport in figures. Statistical pocketbook 2007/2008.

8 :

Source: UIC energy/CO2 database.

9 :

Shares of civil aviation and navigation include international bunkers.

10 :

Source: Eurostat.

11 :

See, for example, Arie Bleijenberg: The driving forces behind transport growth and their implications for policy; Contribution to the international seminar “Managing the fundamental drivers of transport demand”, hosted by the European Conference of Ministers of Transport (ECMT), Paris 2002.

12 :

Source: Statistics Netherlands (

13 :

Source: Transtools.

14 :

United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs/Population Division (2008), World Urbanization Prospects: The 2007 Revision.

15 :

European Commission, Green Paper: Towards a new culture for urban mobility (COM(2007)551 final).

16 :

EEA (2006), Urban sprawl in Europe - The ignored challenge. EEA Report No 10/2006

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