Road transport performance in Europe

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Date : 16/09/2019

In Europe, governments invest EUR 100 billion in transport each year to provide people and firms with better access. Accessibility indicators can be used to capture the benefits of these investments, for example by measuring how many destinations can be reached. In that sense, they are a significant improvement over indicators such as speed, capacity or congestion. However, they are seldom used in decision-making. Furthermore, accessibility indicators often primarily reflect the spatial distribution of destinations rather than the performance of transport networks.

This paper presents a new accessibility framework that captures through a set of indicators both accessibility and transport performance. First, we determine how many people can be reached within a 90-minute drive (accessible population or accessibility) from a specific location. Then we check how many people live within a radius of 120 km (nearby population or proximity) of that location. This functions as a benchmark. If the entire nearby population can be reached quickly, the transport network is performing well. Transport performance is defined as the accessible population divided by the nearby population. We do this for all the 2 million inhabited square grid cells of 1 km2 in the European Union (EU) and the European Free Trade Association (EFTA). To aggregate this data to a city or region, we take the population weighted average of all the cells within the city or region. In this way, we can capture the average accessibility and transport performance experienced by the residents of that city or region.

Within the EU, Bulgaria, Croatia, Poland, Romania and Slovakia have the lowest transport performance, while Belgium and the Netherlands score highest. The performance of Spain and Portugal, which have benefited from a longer period of Cohesion Funds, is now above the EU average.

However, the transport performance of a country also depends on how urbanised it is. Most metropolitan regions outperform other regions. On average, cities outperform rural areas although not all cities perform that well. Cities in eastern EU Member States achieve a lower performance, especially the smaller ones.

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