50 years of improving transport research

The challenges for policy
OECD Observer

Transport is safer today – road deaths have been halved since the early 1970s. Transport is also faster and more reliable – just think of high-speed trains and the growing availability of low-cost air travel. Mobility has increased substantially in all areas of the transport sector. Despite these improvements, however, the transport sector is in crisis.

Congestion is omnipresent in urban areas. Pollution, largely from vehicle emissions, causes premature deaths. What can be done?

It is precisely questions like this one that the European Conference of Ministers of Transport (ECMT) will consider when it celebrates its 50th anniversary at its 16th international symposium on Theory and Practice in Transport Economics, in Budapest on 29-31 October 2003. The theme of the symposium is “50 years of transport research: experience gained and major challenges ahead”.

One of the ECMT’s achievements over the years has been to persuade its members that increased mobility carries costs which must be controlled. Transport consumes such resources as energy through use of fuel, space through infrastructure and time through traffic and simply getting from A to B. It also has other impacts, such as the damage to the environment, wear and tear on road surfaces, as well as the severance effects of road-building. These costs are only partially taken into account by end-users. Motorists have seen no increase in fuel costs in constant terms and public transport users remain unaware of the subsidies that governments pay to cover investment and even the operating costs of their services. Deregulation of road freight has made haulage activities cheaper and more efficient. In contrast, the railways, which have not emulated this trend, have experienced comparatively little growth in productivity.

But while greater competition and deregulation could help the railways, stricter environmental measures can reduce pollution at source. The example of the congestion charge to limit through-traffic flows in London shows what innovative measures can achieve in urban areas.

All transport users must be offered high-quality services whose cost is commensurate with the resources consumed. But raising the taxes on transport is only acceptable if the revenue is reinvested in transport systems. Driving through messages like these and helping to put transport on a more economically rational footing will continue to be the ECMT’s aim in the next 50 years.

©OECD Observer No 238, July 2003

Economic data


Stay up-to-date with the latest news from the OECD by signing up for our e-newsletter :

Twitter feed

Suscribe now

<b>Subscribe now!</b>

To receive your exclusive paper editions delivered to you directly

Online edition
Previous editions

Don't miss

  • Read some of the insightful remarks made at OECD Forum 2017, held on 6-7 June. OECD Forum kick-started events with a focus on inclusive growth, digitalisation, and trust, under the overall theme of Bridging Divides.
  • Checking out the job situation with the OECD scoreboard of labour market performances: do you want to know how your country compares with neighbours and competitors on income levels or employment?
  • Trade is an important point of focus in today’s international economy. This video presents facts and statistics from OECD’s most recent publications on this topic.
  • How do the largest community of British expats living in Spain feel about Brexit? Britons living in Orihuela Costa, Alicante give their views.
  • Brexit is taking up Europe's energy and focus, according to OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría. Watch video.
  • OECD Chief Economist Catherine Mann and former Bank of England Governor Mervyn King discuss the economic merits of a US border adjustment tax and the outlook for US economic growth.
  • Africa's cities at the forefront of progress: Africa is urbanising at a historically rapid pace coupled with an unprecedented demographic boom. By 2050, about 56% of Africans are expected to live in cities. This poses major policy challenges, but make no mistake: Africa’s cities and towns are engines of progress that, if harnessed correctly, can fuel the entire continent’s sustainable development.
  • OECD Observer i-Sheet Series: OECD Observer i-Sheets are smart contents pages on major issues and events. Use them to find current or recent articles, video, books and working papers. To browse on paper and read on line, or simply download.
  • How sustainable is the ocean as a source of economic development? The Ocean Economy in 2030 examines the risks and uncertainties surrounding the future development of ocean industries, the innovations required in science and technology to support their progress, their potential contribution to green growth and some of the implications for ocean management.
  • The OECD Gender Initiative examines existing barriers to gender equality in education, employment, and entrepreneurship. The gender portal monitors the progress made by governments to promote gender equality in both OECD and non-OECD countries and provides good practices based on analytical tools and reliable data.
  • They are green and local --It’s a new generation of entrepreneurs in Kenya with big dreams of sustainable energy and the drive to see their innovative technologies throughout Africa. blogs.worldbank.org
  • Interested in a career in Paris at the OECD? The OECD is a major international organisation, with a mission to build better policies for better lives. With our hub based in one of the world's global cities and offices across continents, find out more at www.oecd.org/careers .

Most Popular Articles

OECD Insights Blog

NOTE: All signed articles in the OECD Observer express the opinions of the authors
and do not necessarily represent the official views of OECD member countries.

All rights reserved. OECD 2017