EU rail passenger transport: partial recovery in 2021


In 2021, 261 billion passenger-kilometres (pkm) were registered via rail. This marks a partial recovery in EU rail passenger transport performance (+17 % compared with 2020) after the dip recorded in 2020 due to strict precautionary measures related to limiting the spread of COVID-19 (-46 % compared with 2019).

This information comes from data on railway passenger transport published by Eurostat today. The article presents a handful of findings from the more detailed Statistics Explained article.

The demand for passenger transport increased by 10 % between 2015 and 2019, when a peak of 414 billion pkm was registered. The dip in rail passenger transport performance in 2020 was particularly significant in the second and fourth quarters (-74 % and -54 % compared with the same quarters in 2019).

Despite the slight recovery in 2021, EU rail passenger transport performance was still below the performance levels observed before the pandemic. Compared with 2019, the number of rail passengers in EU countries decreased by 37 % in 2021.

At a quarterly level, the first quarter of 2021 was still largely impacted by the remaining COVID-19 precautionary measures (-48 % compared with the first quarter of 2020 and -57% compared with the first quarter of 2019). The remaining three quarters of 2021 show that EU rail passenger transport performance was below the levels observed before the pandemic, but that those levels recovered somewhat from 2020: +98 % in the second quarter compared with 2020 (-48 % compared with 2019), +20 % in the third quarter (-25 %) and +74 % in the fourth quarter (-20 %).

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Methodological notes: 

  • Main undertakings are defined as those with a total volume of goods transport of at least 200 million tonne-kilometres or at least 500 000 tonnes, or total volume of passenger transport of at least 100 million passenger-kilometres.
  • Norway: based on quarterly data. Belgium, Hungary, the Netherlands and Poland: confidential data. Cyprus and Malta: no railways.