Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on rail passenger transport in Q4 2020

Since March 2020, countries in Europe have taken a variety of restrictive measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19. This has significantly affected the travel sector, including rail travel. Despite a slight recovery in the third quarter of 2020, the number of rail passengers further decreased in the fourth quarter of 2020 in all EU Member States with available data.

In the fourth quarter of 2020, the largest decreases in the number of rail passengers were observed in Ireland (-74 % compared with the fourth quarter of 2019, -9.5 million passengers) and Greece (-68   %, -3.8 million passengers), followed by Italy (-61 %, -144.9 million passengers), the Netherlands (-61 %, -62.0 million passengers), Slovakia (-54 %, -11.2 million passengers), Slovenia (-53 %, -1.9 million passengers) and Poland (-51% , -44.8 million passengers).

The pandemic had less impact on rail passenger transport in the same quarter in Bulgaria (-22 % compared with the fourth quarter of 2019, -1.1 million passengers) and Estonia (-29 %, -0.6 million passengers).

When also considering the length of passenger journeys (in passenger-kilometres), the decreases compared with the fourth quarter of 2019 were generally slightly higher than the decreases in numbers of passengers, as among the precautionary measures, long-distance travelling or non-essential trips were not recommended at the time. In the fourth quarter of 2020, the decreases in passenger-kilometres were largest in Ireland (-76 %) and Greece (-72 %), followed by Italy (-69 %), Slovakia (-66 %) and Spain (-65 %).

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