Railway freight transport statistics

Data from December 2017. Most recent data: Further Eurostat information, Main tables and Database. Planned update: January 2019

This article focuses on recent rail freight transport statistics in the European Union (EU). The total performance in the EU-28 can be estimated at around 403 billion tonne-kilometres in 2016.

Figure 1: Evolution of EU-28 rail freight transport for main undertakings, 2006-2016
Source: Eurostat (rail_go_grpgood)
Figure 2: Evolution of EU-28 rail freight transport at quarterly level for main undertakings, 2009Q1-2016Q4
Source: Eurostat (rail_go_grpgood)
Figure 3: The development of rail transport, for main undertakings: change between 2015 and 2016 - in million TKm
Source: Eurostat (rail_go_grpgood)
Figure 4: The development of rail transport, for main undertakings: change between 2015 and 2016 - in thousand tonnes
Source: Eurostat (rail_go_grpgood)
Figure 5: Rail transport of goods by type of transport, for main undertakings in 2016 - in % of total TKM performed
Source: Eurostat (rail_go_grpgood)
Table 1: Evolution of rail freight transport by type of transport, for main undertakings: change between 2015 and 2016 – in thousand TKm
Source: Eurostat (rail_go_typeall), (rail_go_grpgood)
Figure 6: Rail transport of goods by type of transport, for main undertakings in 2016 - in % of total tonnes transported
Source: Eurostat (rail_go_grpgood)
Table 1: Evolution of rail freight transport by type of transport, for main undertakings: change between 2015 and 2016 – in thousand tonnes
Source: Eurostat (rail_go_typeall), (rail_go_grpgood)

Main statistical findings

Fewer goods were transported in the EU-28 by railways in 2016 compared to 2015 but on longer distances

The evolution of the EU-28 rail freight transport between 2006 and 2016 is presented in Figure 1, both in tonnes and tkm. Two similar trends have occurred for tonnes and tkm until 2013. From 2014 onwards, the time series show a tendency to slightly increase for tkm but to decrease for tonnes. This can be explained by fewer goods transported by railways but on longer distances.

The EU-28 rail freight transport peaked to 438 billion tkm and 1 710 billion tonnes in 2007 after increases of 4.4 % and 5.6 % compared with 2006, respectively. A sharp decrease was observed between 2008 and 2009 (-17.4 % for tkm; -17.8 % for tonnes), down to 353 billion tkm and 1 380 million tonnes, as result of the economic crisis. A recovery immediately followed with steady increases in 2010 and 2011 (+8 % and +7.3 %, for tkm; +7.7 % and +8.7 % for tonnes). After a decline in 2012 (-3.8 % and -2.7 %, for tkm and tonnes respectively), rail freight transport in tkm remained relatively stable between 2013 and 2016 (+1.1 %) while rail freight transport in tonnes decreased by 2.5 %.

Year-to-year development of quarterly transport differs significantly across countries

The evolution of the EU-28 rail freight transport at quarterly level is presented in Figure 2, both in tonnes and tkm. At quarterly level, the movements were more erratic. No seasonal pattern can be identified according to the trend observed. Post economic crisis, a peak of activity was reached in the 2nd quarter of 2011 with 104 billion tkm and 409 million tonnes. Since this period, the transport performance never went below 93 billion tonnes (lower point reach in 1st quarter 2013) and the transport of goods always exceeded 373 billion tonnes (lower point reach in 1st quarter 2016).

Focusing on 2016, transport performance decreased in the first quarter compared to the same quarter of previous year (-1.8 %) and compared to the previous quarter (-3.7 %). Similarly, the goods transported also dropped (-3.4 % compared to the same quarter of previous year and compared to the previous quarter). In the 2nd quarter, transport performance increased both compared to the previous quarter and to the same quarter of the previous year (+2.7 % and +0.6 %, respectively) while goods transported decreased when comparing with the same quarter of the previous year (-0.9 %) but rose when comparing with the previous quarter (+1.8 %). In the 3rd quarter, while both tonnes transported and tkm performed dropped compared to the same quarter of previous year (-1.3 % and -1.5 %, respectively), transport performance also decreased when comparing to the 2nd quarter (-1.4 %) but goods transported slightly increased (+0.3 %). In the last quarter of 2016, both transport performance and goods transported increased substantially compared to the previous quarter (+4.7 % and +4.5 %, respectively). The increase was more moderate when comparing with the same quarter of previous year (+2.1 % for tkm and +0.8 % for tonnes).

The change in transport performance between 2015 and 2016 is presented for each reporting country in Figure 3. A growth in transport performance between 2015 and 2016 could be noticed for thirteen EU Member States and Turkey. In absolute terms, Latvia recorded the largest decrease between 2015 and 2016 (-3.0 billion tkm), followed by the United Kingdom (- 2.3 billion tkm) and France (-1.7 billion tkm). In contrast, two countries reported absolute increases of more than 1 billion tonne-kilometres over the same period, namely Italy (+4.1 billion tkm) and Austria (+1.7 billion tkm).

The highest increase in total rail freight transport performance was recorded by Italy (+22.1 %), followed by Finland (+11.5 %) and Austria (+8.7 %). At the other end of the scale, the largest decrease between 2015 and 2016 was recorded in Estonia (-24.9 %), followed by the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (-20.0 %), Latvia (-16.0 %) and Greece (-13.7 %).

Tonnes of freight transported increased for 11 Member States

The change in weight of goods transported between 2015 and 2016 is presented for each reporting country in Figure 4. When looking at tonnes of freight transported, the picture is slightly different. Indeed, eleven EU Member States, Norway, Switzerland and Turkey registered an increase between 2015 and 2016, while a drop was observed for thirteen EU Member States and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

In absolute terms, the United Kingdom recorded the largest decrease between 2015 and 2016 (-18.2 billion tonnes), followed by Latvia (-7.8 billion tonnes) and France (-6.4 billion tonnes). In contrast, six countries reported absolute increases of more than 2 billion tonnes over the same period, namely Italy (+12.2 billion tonnes), Austria (+5.8 billion tonnes) , Poland (+4.8 billion tonnes) , Finland (+2.8 billion tonnes) , Sweden (+2.5 billion tonnes) and Slovakia (+2.1 billion tonnes).

The geographical location of the countries plays a key role in the share of international transport

The rail freight transport by type of transport (national, international loadings/unloadings and transit) in total tkm performed are shown in Table 1 and Figure 5. The share of international transport in the various countries is strongly linked to their geographical position within Europe. For the EU-28 as a whole, the share of international loadings could be estimated at almost 17 % in 2016, international unloadings at 23 %, transit at 11 % and national at almost 50 %.

Countries registering the highest share of international transport are located in key corridors within the European market. In the Baltic States of Latvia and Estonia, situated at the border between the EU and Russia, international unloadings accounted for 90 % and 68 % respectively of the total transport performance in 2016. The Netherlands strategically situated in the heart of the European market, registered a share of international loadings of 66 % in total tkm performed. The key import port of Rotterdam, with large sea/rail transfers of goods dispatched within the European Union, strongly influence these figures.

By contrast, countries with specific geographical characteristics (at the periphery of the European Union or islands) recorded a low share of international transport by rail. Small shares are observed for the United Kingdom (3 %) and Denmark (11 %). For such countries, the preferred mode for international freight transport remains maritime transport, goods being delivered at the nearest port to the point of their destination and then being forwarded in the country mainly by road, but also by rail (accounted as national transport). Turkey also recorded a low percentage (4 %) which may also be linked to its peripheral position.

Highest share for national transport observed in the United Kingdom

When looking at national transport, the highest shares were observed in 2016 for the United Kingdom (97 %), Spain (81 %) and Portugal (81 %). In contrast, national transport represented only 2 % in Latvia, 6 % in the Netherlands and 7 % in Denmark. Regarding transit transport, Denmark registered the highest share in 2016, with 83 %. In contrast, 6 EU Member States and Norway did not report any transit transport.

The EU-28 growth rates for 2015-2016 indicate a decrease of 1.5 % for national rail freight transport. In contrast, the total international transport registered an increase of 0.6 % (+2.5 % for loadings and -0.7 % for unloadings). Transit transport also increased substantially by 6.2 %.

At national level, the largest increases were observed for Italy (+26.5 %) and Estonia (+11.8 %), as well as for Switzerland (+;nbsp;49.9 %) and Turkey (+12.7 %). On the contrary, substantial decreases were registered in Latvia (-13.7 %), Bulgaria (-12.4 %) and the United Kingdom (-12 %). For total international transport the highest increase was for Finland (+28 %) followed by Italy (+18 %) and Denmark (+17.2 %). In contrast, Estonia registered the largest decrease (-32.2 %), followed by Greece (-16.3 %), Latvia and Switzerland (both -15 %). Regarding transit transport, the highest rise was observed for Hungary (+22.6 %) while the largest decrease was registered by Greece (no transit reported in 2016), followed by Portugal (-51.4 %).

Registered shares of international unloadings in 2016 are highest in Latvia

The rail freight transport by type of transport (national, international loadings/unloadings and transit) in tonnes are shown in Table 2 and Figure 6. The picture for tonnes is quite similar to tkm. For the EU-28 as a whole, the share of transit and national slightly differs (7 % and 53 %, respectively). In 2016, 99 % of goods in tonnes concerned national transport in the United Kingdom but only 3 % in Latvia. The Netherlands registered a share of 64 % of international loadings. By contrast, Finland has only 1 % of international loadings in 2016. The registered shares of international unloadings in 2016 are the highest in Latvia (88 %), among all countries, while Ireland does not have international unloadings. In 2016, transit represented 72 % of goods transported by rail transport in Denmark.

At EU-28 level, a decrease of 2.8 % was observed for national rail freight transport while total international transport increased by 0.5 % (+2.3 % for loadings and -0.7 % for unloadings) and transit transport by 4.7 %.

At national level, the biggest increase between 2015 and 2016 was registered by Italy (+30.4 %). In contrast, the highest decrease was observed in Luxembourg (-37.3 %). When looking at international transport, Finland registered the highest increase (+14.6 %) while the United Kingdom observed the largest decrease (-27 %). The transit transport in Portugal was halved when comparing 2016 with 2015.

Data sources and availability

The figures presented in this article have been extracted from the Eurostat rail transport database. They include data on national, international and transit transport of the Member States, EFTA and Candidate countries, collected according to the Regulation (EU) No 2016/2032 of the European Parliament and the Council, amending Regulation (EC) No 91/2003.

There is no railway in Cyprus and Malta.

The various elements present data collected under the detailed reporting system, meaning that data include only main undertakings which are defined as follows:

  • Until 2015: undertakings with a total transport performance greater than 500 million tonne-km or 200 million passenger-km.
  • From 2016: undertakings with a total volume of goods transport of at least 200 million tonne-km or at least 500 000 tonnes or o total volume of passengers transport of at least 100 million passenger-km.

Railway undertakings which are below the thresholds may be included for some countries.

Basic results and derived indicators (such as growth rates and shares in % of total) in the tables are rounded. However, the figures are based on the non-rounded original data. As a result, the sum of shares in % of total, as shown in the tables, is not necessarily equal to 100 %.

Explanatory notes for countries are available in the metadata on the Eurostat website.

Symbols

 : not available
- not applicable
0 actual zero or very negligible transport
c confidential data

Context

The content of this statistical article is based on data collected within the framework of the Regulation (EU) 2016/2032 of the European Parliament and the Council, amending Regulation (EC) No 91/2003 on rail transport statistics.

See also

Further Eurostat information

Publications

Main tables

Railway transport (t_rail)
Goods transport by rail (ttr00006)

Database

Railway transport (rail)
Railway transport measurement - Goods (detailed data based on Directive 80/1177/EC or Regulation (EC) No 91/2003) (rail_go)

Dedicated section

Source data for tables and figures (MS Excel)

Excel.jpg Rail freight transport statistics 2016


Responsible unit

  • E3 Transport