Railway passenger transport statistics - quarterly and annual data

Data extracted in October 2019.

Planned article update: November 2020.

In 2018, rail passengers transport in the EU was estimated at 472 billion passenger-kilometres, up 1.5 % from the previous year.
Passenger transport by rail in the EU continued its growth in 2017 for the sixth successive year.

Quarterly rail passenger transport, EU-28, 2013-2018

This article takes a look at recent annual and quarterly statistics on rail passenger transport in the European Union (EU). The article is based on data collected on the basis of Regulation Regulation (EU) No 2018/643 recast of Regulation (EU) No 2016/2032. After a period of sustained growth, rail transport performance in passenger-kilometres started to feel the effects of the economic crisis at the beginning of 2009. Rail passenger transport nevertheless remained less affected than rail freight transport, and registered a recovery from 2010 onwards.

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Rail passengers transport performance continued to increase in 2017

Estimated at 472 billion passenger-kilometres in 2018, rail passenger transport performance at EU-28 level continued its increase by 1.5 % compared with 2017. A steady growth was observed between 2013 and 2018, with a growth in each quarter of six five years compared with the same quarter of the previous year, except in the second quarter of 2018.

Figure 1: Rail passenger transport, EU-28, 2013-2018
(billion passenger-kilometres)
Source: Eurostat (rail_pa_typepas)

This increase was mainly influenced by the third quarter of 2018 (+2.8 % compared to the same quarter of the previous year). The first and fourth quarters showed a positive trend of 2.5 % and 2.1 %, respectively, when comparing with the corresponding quarters of the previous year. In contrast, the second quarter decreased compared with the same period of the previous year (-1.5 %).

A seasonal pattern can be observed with drops in the first and fourth quarters and increases in the second and third quarters when comparing with the previous quarter. However, in 2016 and 2017, the fourth quarter showed a slight increases of 0.1 % and 0.3 %, respectively, compared with the first quarter. In 2018, the usual seasonal pattern is back (See figure 2).

Figure 2: Quarterly rail passenger transport, EU-28, 2013-2018
(billion passenger-kilometres)
Source: Eurostat (rail_pa_quartal)

In 2018, national transport represented more than 70 % of total transport in all countries

Focusing on the share between national and international transport, national transport is always predominant, representing more than 80 % of the total transport for all countries in 2018 with the exception of Luxembourg where international transport represented 29 % of the total passenger transport by rail. (Figure 3)

Figure 3: Rail passenger transport by type of transport, 2018
(%, based on passenger-kilometres)
Source: Eurostat (rail_pa_typepas)

Although rail passenger transport performance (in passenger-kilometres) at EU-28 level recorded an increase in 2018 compared with 2017, seven Member States showed a decrease over the same period. The highest decrease among the EU-28 countries can be observed in Latvia (-14.1 %), followed by France (-3.4 %). In contrast, rail passenger transport performance in Estonia, Czechia and Ireland increased substantially by 13.8 %, 8.7 % and 7.5 %, respectively. Outside the EU-28, Montenegro and North Macedonia recorded the highest growths with +11.4 % and +7.0 %), respectively.

Table 1: Rail passenger transport by type of transport, 2017-2018
(million passenger-kilometres)
Source: Eurostat (rail_pa_typepas) and (rail_pa_quartal)

Concerning the evolution of international transport performance between 2017 and 2018, the largest increases were reported by Denmark (+22.6 %), Czechia (+18.7 %), Lithuania (+18.1 %) and Poland (+12.9 %). In contrast, the largest decrease was reported by Portugal (-32.8 %), followed by Greece (-30.1 %) and Sweden (-17.3 %). The EFTA country Norway also registered a large decrease by 31.5 %. Regarding the evolution of national transport performance, Latvia registered the largest drop with -14.9 % while Estonia reported the largest increase with +14.6 %.

Number of passengers transported by rail increased in 2018

All in all, twenty of the EU-28 Member states reported increases in passenger transport (in number of passengers) between 2017 and 2018. The largest increases were recorded in Lithuania (+11.7 %) and Greece (+9.4 %). In contrast, the transport of passengers decreased by 3.9 % in Romania and 2.4 % in France.

Table 2: Rail passenger transport performance by type of transport, 2017-2018
(thousand passengers)
Source: Eurostat (rail_pa_typepas) and (rail_pa_quartal)

When looking at the evolution of international transport between 2017 and 2018, the largest increases were reported by Poland (+17.7 %), Czechia (+17.0 %), Lithuania (+13.6 %), Slovakia (12.9 %) and Ireland (+10.5 %). In contrast, the largest decreases were reported by Portugal (-31.1 %) followed by Greece (-21.0 %). Outside the EU, the EFTA country Norway registered a substantial drop of -25.5 %. Finally, concerning the evolution of national transport, Lithuania registered the largest increase with +11.5 % while Romania reported the largest drop with -3.9 %, followed by France (-2.5 %).

Data sources

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 2018/643 recast of Regulation (EU) No 2016/2032. The transport of passengers by metro, tram and/or light rail is excluded. The data presented are included in Eurostat’s dissemination database (reference tables are provided under each table and graph). 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 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


The content of this statistical article is based on data collected within the framework of Regulation (EU) No 2018/643 recast of Regulation (EU) No 2016/2032.

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