Transport systems are closely linked to our health, as the causal pathway for this topic shows. Road accidents, air quality and noise are among the direct links. Moreover, transport systems shape our communities and how much people walk and cycle, and these factors influence health.

Understanding the policy context

EU policy and legislation need to be addressed when developing partnership contracts, when preparing the national transport plans that meet this objective’s ex-ante and when drafting conditionality operational programmes. Key documents that address health include the following:

  • The European Commission’s 2011 White Paper on Transport calls for the development of an integrated, European transport area and for a transition to low-carbon transport systems. Its goals including halving EU road casualties by 2020, and it also highlights the need for improvements in air quality and noise.
  • EU air quality legislation sets standards: new transport investments need to ensure that local areas meet these.
  • EU legislation also requires Member States to monitor and address noise problems through actions plans - transport investments should consider how they will affect these plans and noise impacts in general.

Developing operational programmes

The scale of transport investments will depend on the category of region and on the national, regional and local context. Moreover, Structural Fund programmes for transport will need to link together with national transport plans and regional and local planning and objectives.

Structural Fund investments for transport that can bring public health improvements include the following:

  • Investments for public transport use
  • Investments for transport intermodality
  • Support for low-carbon, low-air emissions transport systems and vehicles
  • Safety enhancements in transport networks
  • Noise reduction control
  • Improving connections and access to key services
  • Constructing of bicycle paths and bicycle-friendly infrastructure
  • Promoting traffic calming in areas where people live

Here are some concrete examples from the Operational Programmes in the 2007-2013 period.



Where to find it

In Andalucía, the potential health gains of encouraging the purchase of “greener” vehicles as well as the use of less contaminating transport fuels and zero-carbon means of transport (e.g. bicycle) are acknowledged.

Andalucía ERDF OP 2007-2013, section 3.4.2 on the improvement of the transport system, p. 168 ff.

Document in Spanish

In Slovenia, Operational Programmes recognise that health can be improved through enhanced safety levels of (secondary) transport networks, including of layout of junctions and access points. Improvement of railway transport safety at traffic crossings and education of drivers are also considered to be potential sources of health gains.

Slovenia Environmental and transport infrastructure development OP 2007-2013, section on railway infrastructure and road and port infrastructure, p. 78 ff.

The vision that public transport is safer and therefore preferable to private means of transport in terms of health gains is championed in the BMW region in Ireland.

BMW ERDF OP 2007-2013, Priority Axis 3: Urban Development and Secondary Transport Networks, p. 49.

Regional authorities in Puglia (Italy) and the North Great Plain (Hungary) acknowledge in their Structural Funds programmes that improved connectivity (e.g. through road infrastructure) and mobility can enhance access to health services

Puglia, ERDF OP 2007-2013, Priority Axis 3, p. 91.

Document in Italian

North Great Plain ROP 2007-2013Priority Axis 3: Improving Transport Conditions, p. 70 ff.

Traffic-related noise and overall noise pollution are among “environment” indicators proposed for use in annual reports and the mid-term evaluation in Bayern, Germany.

Bayern ERDF OP 2007-2013, Section 4: System of Indicators, p. 61.


Developing projects

The next step will be to develop projects to meet programme goals, and also to ensure that transport projects such as new road networks incorporate health-related elements, such as accident prevention and noise control.

Here is a good practice example of projects that demonstrate the positive impacts of transport on health gains.

The Westmeath County Council in Ireland received support from the Gateways and Hubs European Regional Development Fund Grants Scheme for up to 60% of the funding required to create approximately 20km of high quality cycle lanes around the town of Mullingar. These cycle lanes, a number of which are already open to the public, link residential areas to schools, business districts and central urban areas in a municipality of 18,000 inhabitants. Related documentation highlighted the project’s potential public health benefits in terms of reduced obesity and healthier lifestyles, particularly for the youth.