This publication reports on the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) analysis of infrastructure
requirements to support projected road and rail travel through 2050, as identified in the IEA
Energy Technology Perspectives 2012 (ETP 2012), using the IEA Mobility Model (MoMo).
Infrastructure requirements and costs have been added to the general cost accounting system
outlined and presented in ETP 2012. This publication provides additional details on the results
and analytical approach.
Over the next four decades, global passenger and freight travel is expected to double over 2010
levels. Non‐OECD regions will account for nearly 90% of global travel increases. The consequences
of this surge in global mobility are significant: ETP 2012 estimates that transport sector energy
consumption under a current policies scenario (ETP 2012 6oC Scenario [6DS]) will grow by nearly
80%. In a new policies scenario (ETP 2012 4oC Scenario [4DS]), in which fuel economy standards
are tightened and a small uptake of advanced vehicle technologies is present, transport energy
consumption and emissions are projected to increase by nearly 40% by 2050. Neither scenario
will achieve emissions targets of a 2oC increase in average global atmospheric temperatures
(ETP 2012 2oC Scenario [2DS]).
Growth in global mobility will have consequences beyond energy and emissions. IEA analysis
shows that infrastructure in the transport sector (road and rail) must increase significantly to
2050, as global passenger and freight travel grows over the next 40 years. Under the ETP 2012
4DS, it is expected that the world will need to add nearly 25 million paved road lane‐kilometres
(km) and 335 000 rail track kilometres (track‐km), or a 60% increase over 2010 combined road
and rail network length by 2050. This includes a slight increase in global bus rapid transit (BRT)
networks (roughly 650 km in trunk corridors) and expected high‐speed rail (HSR) additions to
2030 (nearly 27 000 km over 2010 levels). In addition, it is expected that between 45 000 square
kilometres (km2) and 77 000 km2 of new parking spaces will be added to accommodate
passenger vehicle stock growth. In total, road, rail and parking infrastructure by 2050 is expected
to account for between 250 000 km2 and 350 000 km2 of built surface area – or roughly the size
of the United Kingdom and Germany (in land area), respectively.
The infrastructure additions estimated in this analysis will carry significant costs. Cumulative
expenditures on transport infrastructure investments (capital construction) in the 4DS are
expected to reach USD 45 trillion by 2050. This accounts for roughly 0.7% of global GDP, which is
consistent with present land transport infrastructure investment levels. When combined with
reconstruction and upgrade costs, and annual operation and maintenance spending, global
transport spending on roads, rail, BRT, HSR and parking is expected to reach nearly USD 120 trillion
by 2050, or an unweighted average of roughly USD 3 trillion per year over the next 40 years. This
equates to 2% of projected global GDP to 2050. Again, this is largely consistent with existing
Unsurprisingly, the largest expected infrastructural additions will be in rapidly emerging economies,
such as China and India. ASEAN, Latin America and the Middle East likewise are expected to add
considerable land transport infrastructure between now and 2050. Overall, non‐OECD countries
account for 85% of projected infrastructure additions over the next 40 years, including nearly
90% of global roadway infrastructure. This reflects expected passenger and freight travel growth
in non‐OECD countries, where the IEA expects travel levels to increase more than 2.5‐fold by 2050.
Due to faster motorisation and travel growth rates, non‐OECD expenditures on land transport
infrastructure are expected to surpass OECD levels by 2030. By 2050, non‐OECD transport
infrastructure investment and maintenance spending levels are anticipated to be nearly 20% higher
than in OECD countries. This estimate assumes that unit development and maintenance costs will
continue to be somewhat less expensive in non‐OECD countries: with nearly 45% more infrastructure
than in OECD countries by 2050, 20% more spending is most likely a conservative estimate.
If countries pursue travel “avoid and shift” policies, as recommended in ETP 2012, global
transport infrastructure requirements could be reduced considerably. With nearly 23% fewer
vehicle kilometres of travel in 2050 in the 2DS, roadway additions decrease by more than
10 million lane‐km as road passenger and freight travel are either shifted (e.g. to bus or to rail)
or eliminated (e.g. due to land use changes). Global passenger vehicle parking is also expected
to decrease substantially in the 2DS – to nearly 27 000 km2 less than estimated in 4DS projections.
In contrast, global rail additions would need to increase in the 2DS to accommodate greater rail
travel: nearly 200 000 track‐km above 4DS projections, including nearly 90 000 km of additional
HSR over expected 4DS HSR additions to 2030. BRT networks in the 2DS grow to more than
25 000 trunk‐km by 2050, a ten‐fold increase over 4DS projections.
Despite increases in expenditures on rail, HSR and BRT infrastructure in the 2DS, cumulative
global land transport infrastructure spending decreases by nearly USD 20 trillion over 4DS
estimates. The bulk of those savings come from reduced roadway investment and maintenance
costs, which account for nearly USD 15 trillion of total projected savings. Parking reductions also
save roughly USD 10 trillion over 4DS spending levels, while rail expenditures (including HSR)
increase by nearly USD 3.5 trillion. BRT network additions under the 2DS add another USD 350 billion
over 4DS spending levels (only one‐tenth of the increased rail costs).
Cost estimates presented in the 2DS do not include other transport investments related to shifts
to more sustainable transport (e.g. purchases of additional trains and BRT buses). However, the
considerable difference between road and parking savings over rail, BRT and HSR additions suggests
that 2DS investments and maintenance costs are most likely to be far less than 4DS spending
levels, even when those costs are included. In fact, ETP 2012 estimates show that global vehicles,
fuels and infrastructure expenditures to 2050 are nearly USD 515 trillion in the 4DS. Transport
expenditure estimates in the 2DS, including more expensive trains and buses, amount to
roughly USD 465 trillion – representing net savings of USD 50 trillion, or USD 30 trillion in
savings in vehicle and fuel expenditures and USD 20 trillion in infrastructure savings as identified
in this analysis (IEA, 2012).
The potential shift of travel to more sustainable modes in the ETP 2012 2DS could result in significant
estimated savings on infrastructure investments and maintenance costs. The infrastructure analysis
presented in this publication is only a partial analysis of the effects of “avoid and shift” policies on
society; however, the substantial savings estimated from infrastructure costs suggest that increased
transit and intelligent land‐use planning should provide net mobility benefits with net reductions
in transport spending, energy use and emissions – and therefore net benefits to society.