This first SDG 9 dashboard addresses the provisions in place to transport people (infrastructure) and how people use these (mobility). Mobility enables people to work, keep in touch with each other and undertake activities in their free time. On the downside, people lose time through traffic congestion, road safety is declining, and pressure on the environment is increasing.
Summary of results
- Overall, it is difficult to interpret trends for this SDG: the time series are relatively short, and the coronavirus period had serious consequences for mobility.
- The picture is mixed. Nine indicators have a neutral medium-term trend (based on available data for 2015 to 2022), three indicators are trending towards declining well-being, and four point to increasing well-being.
- For most indicators in this dashboard, it was not possible to compare the Netherlands with other EU countries.
- The medium-term trend for CO2 emissions of national air carriers was neutral in the period 2015-2022, while it was downward in 2014-2021. In terms of kilograms per capita, these emissions were higher for the Netherlands than for most other EU countries.
- Trends of CO2 emissions by cars and other passenger transport vehicles (in kilograms per capita) are decreasing. CO2 emissions of commercial vehicles are rising, however.
- More people than previously experienced nuisance from road traffic in 2015-2022.
- The trend of investment in civil engineering works (as a percentage of GDP), which is important from the point of view of future well-being, is decreasing.
Dashboard and indicators
The topics covered by SDG 9 are quite comprehensive and can be broken down into three main components: infrastructure and mobility, sustainable business, and knowledge and innovation. In SDG 9.1 we examine the first component: accessible infrastructure and mobility for everyone. The second and third components are dealt with in dashboards SDG 9.2 Sustainable business and SDG 9.3 Knowledge and innovation.
In addition to indicators on physical infrastructure – which is already quite advanced in the Netherlands – dashboard 9.1 includes data on personal mobility, goods transport and environmental effects. Mobility and infrastructure enable people to move around – for example to and from work – to transport goods, keep in touch with each other and undertake recreational activities. However, it also has detrimental effects on society and the environment: people lose a lot of time in traffic congestion, road safety may decrease and the environment may come under increasing pressure.
Measures introduced to curb the effects of the coronavirus pandemic had a major impact on mobility from early 2020 to early 2022. For a long time, the Dutch government advised people to work from home as much as possible, to stay in their own neighbourhoods and to receive as few visitors as possible. A curfew was also imposed for part of 2021. As expected, traffic congestion and air pollution decreased in this period. Mobility indicators in the dashboard show a mixed picture. Three are trending towards reduced well-being (investment in civil engineering projects, CO2 emissions by commercial vehicles and experienced traffic nuisance), while four are trending favourably (the share of electric cars, zero-emission car traffic, CO2 emissions by cars and other passenger vehicles, and emissions of particulate matter from mobile sources). One indicator shows a trend switch: CO2 emissions by national air carriers has turned from downward to neutral. For most indicators in this dashboard, it was not possible to compare the Netherlands with other EU countries, as there are few comparable international data sources.
SDG 9 Industry, innovation and infrastructure: infrastructure and mobility
Resources and opportunities2.2%11.2%13th62.2%10.7%
Resources and opportunities
In consultation with CBS and other mobility experts, the indicator set in this dashboard has been revised on a number of points. Indicators on passenger-kilometres by bicycle, car and public transport are now based on the Dutch national traffic and transport survey (ODiN). While the public transport indicator in previous editions of the monitor included only travel by train, from this edition it includes all forms of public transport (trains, buses, trams and metro). And lastly, indicators have been included to reflect environmental aspects of personal mobility. Overall, it is difficult to interpret trends for this SDG: relevant time series are relatively short, and the coronavirus period had serious consequences for mobility.
Motor vehicle fleet data have been adjusted as a consequence of an improved selection method. This has affected the figures on vehicle-kilometres, see Methoderapport motorvoertuigenpark, 2019-2022. The effect of the break in series for the overall level, which is used here, is limited: 2 percent fewer vehicles and 1 percent fewer kilometres.
Resources and opportunities concern resources available for infrastructure construction and maintenance, and how they affect mobility of people and goods. The share of GDP invested in civil engineering amounted to 2.2 percent in 2022. The trend is downward (red). A high quality and easy-to-use public transport system is vital for accessibility; no suitable indicator has yet been found to describe this. A report by the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (PBL) has established that it is much more difficult to get to and from work and public amenities by public transport than by car in more rural parts of the country.
Just over 11 percent of household budgets was spent on transport in 2021, including private benefits of company cars. In the same year, 62.2 percent of the Dutch population had a driving licence and lived in a household that had use of a car. This percentage is similar to that in 2018. The Dutch car fleet is becoming more sustainable: the share of hybrid and electric cars had risen to 10.7 percent on 1 January 2023. Electric and hydrogen-powered cars are cleaner and more economical than conventional cars. The trend is green. One downside in this respect is that rare metals such as lithium and cobalt are used in the production of these vehicles, and these are not always produced under safe and acceptable working conditions.
Use describes travel movements by various forms of transport. As a result of measures to limit the effects of coronavirus for the Dutch population and healthcare system, 2020, 2021 and 2022 were exceptional years in terms of mobility. Many of the measures imposed affected travel: fewer people travelled by air, by rail and on the roads. A large share of the population followed government advice to work from home and limit visits to other households.
When they did have to get around in the coronavirus period, people travelled relatively more often by car, by bicycle and on foot, and less often by public transport. While the number of passenger-kilometres by car (drivers and passengers) and by bicycle amounted to respectively 77 and 85 percent of the 2018 totals (the start of the time series), for public transport this was only 45 percent.
Most passenger-kilometres in the Netherlands are travelled by car. Car drivers and passengers covered an average of nearly seven thousand kilometres per person in 2021, significantly less than the approximately nine thousand per person in 2018. The Dutch also travelled an average of nearly one thousand kilometres by bicycle (including electric bicycles) per person in 2021, 15 percent less than in 2018. Public transport trailed behind these rates: an average of just over 800 kilometres per person. This 2021 figure was similar to that in 2020, but less than half of the 2018 figure.
Recreation was the main motive for 38 percent of total travel in 2021, a higher percentage than in 2018. Reasons for journeys include visiting friends and relatives, sports or hobbies, dining out, staying in a hotel, going out for the evening, cultural and religious activities, seeing the sights, and outdoor activities like walking. The remainder of travel was to get to and from work, for other business or occupational activities, or to go shopping.
A modest but increasing share of total vehicle-kilometres travelled by Dutch cars was accounted for by electric and hydrogen-powered cars in 2021 (3.6 percent). Electric and hydrogen cars are viewed as zero-emission vehicles, as their engines produce no exhaust fumes. They do emit a small amount of particulate matter, through tyre wear, but not from fuel combustion.
Outcomes relate to the effects of traffic and transport, such as traffic congestion and delays, accidents, pollution and noise. Mobility causes harmful air emissions. Particulate matter – particles with a diameter of less than 10 micrometres – can penetrate deep into lung tissue. The downward trend in emissions of particulate matter (in kilograms per capita) from transport and mobile equipment running on combustion engines is therefore good news. The decreasing CO2 emissions (in kilograms per capita) by personal transport vehicles (cars, buses, motorcycles and mopeds) are another favourable development. CO2 emissions by Dutch commercial vehicles are still trending upwards, however. Dutch airlines have relatively higher emission rates per capita than other EU national airlines; the trend is no longer downward, but neutral.
Road traffic volume was affected by the coronavirus pandemic in 2021. Vehicles did travel more kilometres than in 2020, but still far fewer than in 2019. Together with increasing goods transport, the increase in 2021 resulted in more time being lost on motorways through congestion and delay than in 2020. The average number of vehicle hours lost per capita rose to 1.53 in 2021 (still 63 percent down on 2019, before the outbreak of Covid-19). Lost hours are calculated by comparing the number of hours in near standstill traffic (below 50 km/hour) or congestion (between 50 and 100 km/hour) with the refence speed of 100 km/hour (as the average speed achieved in free-flowing traffic).
The number of road traffic deaths fluctuates from year to year. Traffic intensity was lower in the coronavirus period, and in 2021, 582 people were killed in road traffic accidents, the lowest number since 2014. This is the equivalent of 3.3 deaths per 100 thousand inhabitants, which is low compared with other EU countries. Deaths of people travelling on motorcycles and mopeds rose in 2021, while those of people on bicycles and in cars decreased.
Subjective assessment refers to the extent of nuisance people experience as a result of traffic. In 2021, 31.3 percent of the Dutch population were bothered by parking incidents (including wrongly parked cars and too few parking spaces), speeding and/or aggressive road behaviour. The medium-term trend based on available data for 2015-2022 is rising.