Railway freight transport statistics
- Data from December 2016. Most recent data: Further Eurostat information, Main tables and Database. Planned update: January 2018
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 416 billion tonne-kilometres in 2015, showing a decrease of about 1.1 % compared with 2014.
Main statistical findings
Signs of recovery in rail transport performance at the end of 2013 are confirmed since 2014
A growth in transport performance between 2014 and 2015 could be noticed for twelve EU Member States. However, the picture is quite different depending on the country considered.
In absolute terms, Finland recorded the largest decrease (-1.1 billion tonne-kilometres between 2014 and 2015 - see Figure 1). In contrast, three countries reported absolute increases of more than 1 billion tonne-kilometres over the same period, namely Germany, France (both +1.7 billion tkm) and Romania (+1.4 billion tkm).
Despite the general increasing trend, the patterns at national level show substantial differences among countries (Table 1). Thirteen out of the EU-28 Member States for which data are available recorded a decrease in freight transport performance between 2014 and 2015.
The highest increase in rail freight transport performance was recorded by Romania (+11.5 %), followed by Portugal (+10.4 %) and Spain (+7.2 %). At the other end of the scale, the largest decrease between 2014 and 2015 was recorded in Finland (-11.8 %), followed by Denmark (-7.4 %).
Year-to-year development of quarterly transport differs significantly across countries
When considering the EU-28 countries for which data are available, the quarterly changes were -0.8 % in the first quarter 2015, +0.2 % in the second quarter 2015, +0.03 % in the third quarter 2015 and +0.3 % in the fourth quarter 2015, compared with the respective same quarters of 2014. Signs of decreasing activity can be observed during the first semester of 2016, with an estimated fall of -1.1 % compared with the first semester of 2015 (growth rate based on data available for both years).
Assessing in detail the development of rail transport, it is interesting to examine closely the evolution of quarterly figures (Table 2). Indeed, the picture looks different when drilling down at country level, with major disparities across countries in the development of freight transport performance.
All in all, fifteen of the reporting countries showed a year-to-year decrease in the first half of 2015. The largest falls were recorded by Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (-24 % compared to the first semester of 2014), Turkey (-17 %) and Finland (-16 %). Several countries registered rises for all quarters of 2015 compared to the corresponding quarters of 2014. On the contrary, Finland, Sweden and Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia were the only countries for which freight transport performance decreased for all quarters of 2015. The picture in the second half of 2015 is slightly different compared to the first half of 2015, where eighteen of the reporting countries showed a negative trend compared to the last semester of 2014. Based on the figures available for the first half of 2016, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia registered the highest decrease (-34 % between the first six months of 2015 and the corresponding period of 2016), ahead of Montenegro (-26 %), Estonia (-25 %) and Latvia (-24 %). At the other end of the scale, the largest increase is observed in Ireland (+75 %).
The geographical location of the countries plays a key role in the share of international transport
The share of international transport in the various countries is strongly linked to their geographical position within Europe (Figure 2). For the EU-28 as a whole, the share of international transport could be estimated at almost 40 % in 2015 and national transport at almost 51 %.
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 transport accounted for 93 % and 84 % respectively of the total transport performance in 2015.
The Netherlands and Luxembourg, also strategically situated in the heart of the European market, registered shares of 88 % and 82 % in 2015, respectively. 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 (2 %) 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.
Data sources and availability
The figures presented in this article have been extracted from the Eurostat rail transport database on 20 November 2014. They include data on national, international and transit transport of the Member States, collected according to the current Regulation (EC) No 91/2003 (that has replaced the Council Directive 80/1177/EEC since 2003).
The following table presents some characteristics of data availability:
Country characteristics of data availability (see list of country codes)
- IE - Irish rail ceased international freight traffic in 2004.
- CY, MT - No railway transport.
- LI - quarterly data not available; rail transport data provided under simplified reporting only
The various elements present data collected under the detailed and simplified reporting systems. Simplified reporting is an alternative to normal detailed reporting for undertakings for which the annual total performance of freight transport is less than 500 million tonne-kilometres.
Railway lines in Liechtenstein are operated by ÖBB (Austria) and statistics are reported by Austrian authorities under simplified reporting.
Quarterly figures are only collected under detailed reporting. For CZ, DK, DE, EE, IE, EL, FR, HR, LV, LT, HU, NL, PT, FI, SE and UK, detailed reporting covers all undertakings, so quarterly aggregates and annual data are comparable.
Figure 1, Figure 2 and Table 1 combine both simplified and detailed reporting statistics while Table 2 is based on detailed reporting only (quarterly data). Moreover, detailed reporting in Figure 1, Figure 2 and Table 1 is based on annual figures while it is based on quarterly figures in Table 2.
EU-28 totals have been calculated by estimating missing data:
- Belgian 2011 data have been used in Table 1 and 2012 quarterly data have been used in Table 2.
- Croatian 2015 data have been used for 2nd quarter 2016 in Table 2
- For United Kingdom, 2014 data have been used for 2nd quarters 2015 and 2016
- ":" not available
- "-" not applicable
- 0 actual zero or very negligible transport
- c confidential
- All articles on transport
- Trans-European networks in transport (TEN-T)
- Transport statistics at regional level
Further Eurostat information
- Strong recovery in rail freight transport performance in the first nine months of 2010 - Statistics in focus 10/2012
- Six years of road freight growth lost to the crisis - Statistics in focus 12/2011
- The fall in rail freight transport performance slowed down toward the end of 2009 - Statistics in focus 11/2011
- Goods transport by rail declining by the end of 2008 - Statistics in focus 19/2010
- Energy, transport and environment indicators - 2014 edition
- Illustrated glossary for transport statistics - 4th edition
- Transport, see:
- Railway transport (t_rail)
- Goods transport by rail (ttr00006)
- Transport, see:
- Railway transport (rail)
- Railway transport measurement - Goods (detailed data based on Directive 80/1177/EC or Regulation (EC) No 91/2003) (rail_go)
Source data for tables and figures (MS Excel)
- Regulation (EC) No 91/2003 of 16 December 2002 on rail transport statistics
- Directive 80/1177/EEC of 4 December 1980 on statistical returns in respect of carriage of goods by rail, as part of regional statistics
- E3 Transport