Within the EU’s Sustainability Strategy, indicator mechanisms have been specified to report on progress. With respect to transport and environment, two indicators have been agreed on: modal split and volume of transport relative to GDP. The modal split indicator shows the share of each individual mode in the total transport volume. The Dutch Ministry of Environment wanted to know whether these two indicators, and particularly the modal split, are appropriate yardsticks for measuring progress towards a more sustainable transport system in Europe and if not a proposal for alternative indicators.
This paper presents an evaluation of the modal split indicator and proposes an alternative indicator set. The most important conclusion is that policy to ‘reverse’ the modal shift in favour of rail and waterway transport may have very little if any environmental impact, and may even prove negative. A more substantial reduction of these impacts can be achieved by improving the environmental performance of each individual mode. Alternatives to the modal split indicator are indicators that are directly related to the environmental impact of transport.