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Separating the Intensity of Transport from Economic Growth

European Union
Complete with results
Geo-spatial type
Project Acronym
STRIA Roadmaps
Transport mode
Multimodal icon
Transport policies
Societal/Economic issues,
Environmental/Emissions aspects
Transport sectors
Passenger transport,
Freight transport


Background & Policy context

This project, funded through the European Union 5th Framework Growth programme, aims to identify innovative measures which can be used to reduce travel demand while maintaining economic growth and enhancing environmental quality. Specifically the project is looking at the concept of transport intensity. The UK SACTRA report defines transport intensity as an aggregate measure of the resource importance of transport in the economy, in principle covering all modes. Underlying the concept of intensity are the objectives of reducing the environmental externalities from transport while minimising any adverse affects on economic growth.


At the core are three technical and scientific objectives:

  1. to identify the linkages between transport intensity, transport expenditure and economic growth;
  2. to identify all possible innovative means (both within and outside transport) which can break these linkages;
  3. to assess which of the innovative means in (2) are potentially practical and cost-efficient, and which offer the best trade off between environmental protection, transport spending and economic growth.

The project begins with a review of the key linkages between transport, the environment and economic growth, and an assessment of the key performance indicators that can show whether policies can successfully reduce travel demand while maintaining economic growth and enhancing environmental quality.

To obtain a wide selection of innovative measures from across the Community clearly requires broad and multi-sector consultation. It is likely that many of the innovative measures may not be directly transport related. A shift to localised production, or the development of dedicated shopping, bill-payment and banking terminals using digital subscriber line communications are all innovative means that will impact on transport without being transport measures. The project will also consider measures which are not in themselves entirely innovative, but which suggest a new or novel approach to implementing known measures.

Furthermore, within transport, differentiation must be made between freight and passenger transport. This clearly includes potential measures such as hydraulic piping to retail and commercial organisations for goods, which are sector and purpose focused. Some potential measures, such as reducing urban road capacity or increased use of inland waterways could, directly or indirectly, affect all purposes and sectors. This means that not only must a wide variety of means be collected, and that considerable care must be taken on assessing them within a broad framework, if the overall 'cost-efficiency' is to be appraised.

The project approach is to use a relatively small consortium, and use each partner to focus on a subset of European countries with which they are familiar. Each partner will use their extensive network of contacts to identify key persons and institutions where innovative means may be generated. An initial position paper and questionnaire will be sent out, asking for innovative means suggestions and short descriptions. From these extensive mailings, a reasonably comprehensive list of current thinking is expected, supplemented by trawls through literature and data sources such as the internet. The use of partners from across Europe will overcome language barriers and make best use of existing knowledge and contacts.

From this, three panels will be convened made up of those who provided the most promising responses. Three panels provides some compromise between geographical spread whilst maintaining a suitable size for the panels. The framework f


Parent Programmes
Institution Type
Public institution
Institution Name
European Commission, Directorate-General for Energy and Transport (DG TREN)
Type of funding
Public (EU)


The project has involved several distinct stages each producing a range of results. These include:

  1. A detailed review of past research from which a long list of potential measures have been identified.
  2. A wide sample of over 600 experts from Europe and elsewhere were contacted for ideas on potential measures.
  3. Over 100 of these experts have completed questionnaires which have been analysed by the project team. These have provided both insights into measures not previously considered, but also more detailed information about those already identified.
  4. Three panel sessions have been held in different parts of Europe, each of which involved around 16 experts to debate the merits of different measures and to identify case study evidence of their effectiveness.
  5. An assessment framework was developed as part of the project and was used on a shortlist of 13 measures selected by the consortium. Some of these measures are designed to address decoupling of transport intensity from economic growth, others address more directly the link between transport growth and environmental impact.
  6. The assessments of the thirteen measures were presented to a further expert panel session who helped identify whether the chosen measures were realistic and implementable. As a result of this panel a further shortlist of 7 measures were identified which it is believed are those with most promise.

These measures are not intended to be absolutely prescriptive, but rather indicative of broad groups of measures which might be used. An indication of their effectiveness based on case study evidence is given.

Seven illustrative measures stand out from the results as having proven potential (albeit not necessarily at a European scale) to influence transport intensity and/or unit environmental load whilst not having large detrimental effects on GDP. These are (in no particular order):

  • Combined measures to change mobility-related attitudes and traffic behaviour
  • Car sharing as part of combined mobility
  • Controlled Parking Zones
  • Urban road pricing
  • Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles
  • High speed rail
  • Road pricing for freight traffic

These are the areas where we believe the EU could currently most usefully focus its efforts in terms of decoupling. We hav

Policy implications

The seven areas listed above are the areas where we believe the EU could currently most usefully focus its efforts in terms of decoupling. We have provided an estimate (albeit based on case study information which is not always as complete as we would like) of the scale of possible changes which might be realised given the implementation of a particular measure. The EU needs to consider whether the measures suggested here are ones which could successfully be implemented as part of a policy to influence decoupling and whether there are issues of acceptability.

Clearly it will be easier to implement measures such as green transport plans which are based around encouragement of people to change their behaviour, compared to measures which will force a change in behaviour through pricing or other means of control. Of course, ease of implementation does not imply effectiveness. It is noticeable that many of the most promising measures in terms of their decoupling potential are likely to be the most difficult to implement as a result of high public discontent and resultant political wavering.


Lead Organisation
EU Contribution
Partner Organisations
EU Contribution


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