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European Commission shares first findings on the true costs of EU transport

17 January 2019

Last month, the European Commission has shared the preliminary results of a study on the negative effects that transport has on the environment, health, air quality and climate – the so-called external costs.

The study also looks at infrastructure costs and how these are covered by relevant taxes and charges. One of the main findings is the extent of the overall external costs of transport, estimated at around € 1 000 billion annually (almost 7% of the gross domestic product of the 28 EU Member States).

The preliminary findings suggest that, for the time being, society largely pays for these costs, rather than the user or polluter. This is generally true for all transport modes. Road users pay for a bigger share of their total costs than rail users if infrastructure costs are included in the calculation. But if infrastructure costs are excluded, rail users pay for a bigger share of their external costs. Air traffic roughly cover the costs of aviation infrastructure, but only a small fraction of the environmental costs of flying. Waterborne transport users pay the smallest share of their total costs compared to users of other modes.

Key preliminary insights:

  • The total external costs of transport amount to the equivalent of around € 1 000 billion annually, which corresponds to almost 7% of EU28 GDP.
  • The main contributors to this are environment (carbon, noise and pollution), accidents and congestion.
  • Road is the largest contributor, accounting for ¾ of total external costs in absolute terms, and also the mode which leaves the biggest amount of external cost unpaid.
  • For all transport modes, the total costs (external and infrastructure) are substantially higher than what the user pays.

For more information, visit the European Commission website.