Major investments in transport infrastructure, such as the Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T), place a high demand on public resources. The responsible authorities are placing increasing emphasis on evaluating not only the costs and benefits from a transport perspective (such as savings in travel time) but also the wider socio-economic impact of the projects such as production and employment. Moreover, for the TEN-T there is a requirement to assess effects at a network level, looking at how the entire investment programme could influence the environment and regional development. Therefore, decision-makers need tools for estimating these wider socio-economic and spatial impacts.
The aim of the ECOPAC project was to provide a method for determining the socio-economic impact of transport infrastructure investments and transport system improvements, particularly the 'structuring' effect on employment due to increased investment by other sectors of the economy in the vicinity of new transport infrastructure.
ECOPAC developed and demonstrated a method for estimating changes in employment attributable to new transport investments. This is based on regression analysis, seeking to explain the total change in employment in a region in terms of explanatory factors such as the initial structure of the economy, non-transport investments, skill levels and accessibility. The project showed that values could be derived for the number of jobs created per unit length of new infrastructure.
The method was applied to regions of France, Spain, Germany, Finland and the United Kingdom, analysing historical data. The number of jobs created by one km of new road in 10 years in an employment area of 10,000 people was estimated to range from two to eleven. On average, the method suggests that around 7,200 new jobs could be created as the result of building a 100km stretch of motorway in a NUTS-3 zone (Eurostat nomenclature of territorial units for statistics) of some 200,000 workers. A similar benefit can be achieved by investing in a high-speed rail link.
ECOPAC also considered two 'dampening' effects:
- The grouping of investments close to new transport infrastructure may take place at the expense of other areas.
- Selecting one region for transport investment may limit the transport spend in other regions.
The project concluded that these dampening effects cannot readily be assessed using current methods.
ECOPAC has shown that the indirect effects on employment due to new transport infrastructure can be estimated from historical data, and the average results may provide an input to the cost-benefit analysis for future infrastructure investments. Nevertheless, the evidence of significant regional variations and the uncertainty in the dampening effects indicate that more tailored studies may be needed to provide an accurate assessment for a specific location.