Railway freight transport statistics
Data extracted in November 2020.
Planned article update: November 2021.
Rail freight transport for main undertakings, EU-27, 2006-2019
This article focuses on recent rail freight transport statistics in the European Union (EU). The total performance in the EU enlargements can be estimated at almost 400 billion tonne-kilometres in 2019.
Downturn for EU transport performance in 2019
The evolution of the EU rail freight transport performance between 2006 and 2019 is presented in Figure 1. The EU rail freight transport peaked at 416 billion tonne-kilometres in 2007 after an increase of 4.8 % compared with 2006. A sharp decrease was observed between 2008 and 2009 (-17.9 %), down to 334 billion tonne-kilometres, as result of the economic crisis. A recovery immediately followed with steady increases in 2010 and 2011 (+8.7 % and +6.9 %). After a decline in 2012 (-4.2 %), rail freight transport performance rebounded in 2013 (+1.1 %) and continued growing slightly in 2014 and 2015 (+0.9 % and +1.1 %). In 2016, a decline (-0.9 %) was observed, but immediately followed by noticeable rises in 2017 and 2018 (+3.3 % for each year), reaching a post economic crisis peak at almost 410 million tonne-kilometres. In 2019, rail freight transport performance fell by 2.2 % compared to the previous year, to almost 400 billion tonnes-kilometres.
The evolution of the EU rail freight transport performance at quarterly level is presented in Figure 2. At quarterly level, the movements were more erratic. No seasonal pattern can be identified according to the trend observed.
Focusing on 2019, transport performance increased in the first quarter (+2.5 % compared to the same quarters of the previous year) but decreased in all the other quarters (-0.7 % in the 2nd quarter, -2.2 % in the 3rd quarter and -8.2 % in the 4th quarter).
Year-to-year development differs significantly at national level
The change in transport performance between 2018 and 2019 is presented for each reporting country in Figure 3. A growth in transport performance between 2018 and 2019 was registered for only six EU Member States and the candidate countries Montenegro, North Macedonia and Turkey. In absolute terms, Germany recorded the largest increase between 2018 and 2019 (+2.4 billion tonne-kilometres), followed by Croatia (+0.4 billion tonne-kilometres) and Romania (+0.3 billion tonne-kilometres). By contrast, two countries reported absolute decreases of more than 2 billion tonne-kilometres over the same period, namely Poland (-4.2 billion tonne-kilometres) and Latvia (-2.8 billion tonne-kilometres).
In percentage terms, the highest increase between 2018 and 2019 in total rail freight transport performance among the EU Member States was recorded by Greece (+20.2 %), followed by Croatia (+13.9 %). The candidate countries Turkey (+16.4 %), Montenegro (+15.5 %) and North Macedonia (+13.9 %) also registered substantial growths. At the other end of the scale, the largest decrease between 2018 and 2019 was registered in Ireland (-19.1 %), followed by Estonia (-16.7 %), Latvia (-15.9 %), Luxembourg (-14.3 %) and Portugal (-10.4 %).
The change in tonnes of freight transported between 2018 and 2019 is presented for each reporting country in Figure 4. The picture is slightly different compared with transport performance in tonne-kilometres. Indeed, only five EU Member States, along with candidate countries Montenegro, North Macedonia and Turkey, registered an increase between 2018 and 2019. In absolute terms, France recorded the largest increase between 2018 and 2019 (+3.8 million tonnes), followed by Romania (+3.5 million tonnes), Croatia (+2.6 million tonnes) and the Netherlands (+1.0 million tonnes). By contrast, Poland reported a decrease of 12.4 million tonnes and four countries reported absolute decreases of more than 3 million tonnes over the same period, namely Latvia (-7.8 million tonnes), Estonia (-6.5 million tonnes), Slovakia (-3.2 million tonnes) and Italy (-3.1 million tonnes).
In percentage, the highest increase between 2018 and 2019 in total rail freight transport among the EU Member States was recorded by Croatia (+21.6 %), followed by Romania (+6.4 %). The candidate countries Montenegro (+17.0 %), Turkey (+16.9 %) and North Macedonia (+9.5 %) also registered substantial growths. At the other end of the scale, the largest decrease between 2018 and 2019 was registered in Ireland (-32.9 %), followed by Estonia (-23.3 %) and Latvia (-15.8 %).
Rail freight transport performance by type of transport (national, international loadings/unloadings and transit) in total tonne-kilometres performed is shown in Figure 5 and Table 1. The share of international transport in the various countries is strongly linked to their geographical position within Europe. For the EU as a whole, the share of international loadings could be estimated at almost 17 % in 2019, international unloadings at 24 %, transit at 11 % and national at 49 %. In this context, transit transport performance for the EU is calculated as the sum of the transit transport performance reported by each EU Member State.
The Member States 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 84 % and 72 % of the total transport performance in 2019, respectively. The Netherlands, strategically situated in the heart of the European market, registered a share of international transport of 82 % in total tonne-kilometres performed. The key import port of Rotterdam, with large sea/rail transfers of goods dispatched within the EU, strongly influences these figures. Greece registered the highest share of international transport on total transport performance in 2019, with 99 %. Luxembourg also registered a high share of international transport with 85 %.
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. No international transport has been recorded for Ireland in 2019. A small share is observed for Denmark (10 %), as well as for the United Kingdom (3 %) 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 (5 %) which may also be linked to its peripheral position.
Regarding transit transport, Denmark registered the highest share in 2019, with 85 %, followed by Slovakia (43 %), Austria (35 %) and Hungary (33 %). Switzerland (65 %) and North Macedonia (59 %) also had high shares of transit transport in 2019. By contrast, five EU Member States, the United Kingdom and Norway did not report any transit transport in 2019.
When looking at national transport, the highest shares in 2019 were observed in Ireland (100 %), Spain (83 %), Romania (77 %), Portugal (75 %), Poland and Bulgaria (both 70 %). National transport represented 97 % in the United Kingdom and 95 % in Turkey in 2019. By contrast, national transport represented only 1 % in Greece, 3 % in Latvia, 5 % in Denmark and 7 % in the Netherlands. In North Macedonia, national transport was less than 1 % in 2019.
Increases in national transport performance among the EU Member States were observed only in seven EU Member States, the highest being recorded in Latvia (+35.6 %). Substantial growths were also registered in Montenegro (+68.8 %) and Turkey (+15.7 %). At the other end of the scale, substantial falls were registered in Greece (-66.2 %), Estonia (-36.8 %), Denmark (-19.8 %), Ireland (-19.1 %), Portugal (-14.7 %), Hungary (-12.7 %) and Croatia (-10.8 %).
For total international transport performance the highest increase was in Croatia (+32.2 %) followed by Bulgaria (+22.9 %) and Greece (+22.6 %). Substantial growths were also registered in Turkey (+22.6 %) and North Macedonia (+14.8 %). By contrast, Latvia registered the largest decrease (-15.9 %), followed by Slovakia (-15.4 %), Finland (-15.1 %), Romania (-12.8 %) and Estonia (-10.0 %). A substantial fall was also registered in Montenegro (-21.9 %).
Regarding transit transport, the highest rise was observed in Croatia (+19.5 %), followed by Slovakia (+14.8 %) while the largest decrease was registered in Luxembourg (-70.8 %), followed by Latvia (-26.6 %) and Lithuania (-13.1 %). A substantial growth was also registered in Turkey (+212.1 %), Montenegro (+100.2 %) and North Macedonia (+13.4 %).
Rail freight transport by type of transport (national, international loadings/unloadings and transit) in tonnes are shown in Figure 6 and Table 2. The picture for tonnes is quite similar to tonne-kilometres. In 2019, 100 % of goods in tonnes concerned national transport in Ireland but only 1 % in Greece and 4 % in Latvia. The Netherlands registered the highest share of international loadings (60 %). By contrast, Ireland did not have international loadings and the United Kingdom had less than 1 % of international loadings in 2019. The registered shares of international unloadings in 2019 were the highest in Latvia (79 %), while Ireland does not have international unloadings. In 2019, transit represented 73 % of goods transported by rail in Denmark, the highest share among all countries. Switzerland and North Macedonia also had high shares of transit (48 % and 45 % respectively)
At national level, the biggest increase between 2018 and 2019 was registered in Luxembourg (+35.7 %), followed by Latvia (+25.2 %) and Romania (+10.6 %). Substantial growths were also registered in Montenegro (+71.0 %), North Macedonia (+58.2 %) and Turkey (+16.4 %). By contrast, the highest decrease was observed in Greece (-62.1 %), followed by Estonia (-40.0 %), Ireland (-32.9 %), Portugal (-11.3 %) and Denmark (-10.8 %). When looking at international transport, Croatia registered the highest increase (+42.7 %), while Latvia observed the largest decrease (-17.8 %), followed by Slovakia (-14.2 %) and Romania (-11.8 %). Montenegro also registered a remarkable fall in 2019 (-20.5 %), while and increase of 21.2% is noticeable in Turkey.
Regarding transit transport, the highest rise was observed in Croatia (+17.4 %), followed by Slovakia (+10.4 %) while the highest drop was recorded in Luxembourg (-66.3 %), followed by Lithuania (-13.9 %) and Sweden (-11.2 %). Large growths were also registered in Turkey (+204.4 %), Montenegro (+90.5 %) and North Macedonia (+13.4 %).
Source data for tables and graphs
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, the United Kingdom, EFTA and Candidate countries, collected according to the Regulation (EU) No 2018/643 recast of Regulation (EU) No 2016/2032. 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
|0||actual zero or very negligible transport|
- Transport, see:
- Railway transport (t_rail)
- Goods transport by rail (ttr00006)
- Transport, see:
- Railway transport (rail)
- Railway transport measurement - Goods (rail_go)
- Historical data (1982-2002) (rail_go_h)