EU Rail transport severely impacted by COVID-19 in 2020

As a result of strict precautionary measures and a reduced number of trains in operation since March 2020, rail transport reduced significantly in the EU. Freight transport was impacted by those restrictions to a much lesser extent than passenger transport, which almost halved between 2019 and 2020 (-46%) reaching 223 billion passenger-kilometres. Particularly significant were the drops in the second and the fourth quarter of 2020 (-74% and -54% compared with the same period of 2019).

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

In 2020, the EU rail freight transport performance fell by 6% compared with 2019 (in tonne-kilometres), with the second quarter of 2020 being the most impacted (-15% compared with the same period of 2019). However, the last quarter of 2020 recorded a slight growth compared with the same quarter of the previous year (+6%).

All EU Member States reported substantial decreases in the number of passengers transported by rail in 2020. The largest decreases were recorded in Ireland (-64%) and Italy (-57%). Among the remaining EU Member States, seven fell by more than 40% over the same period. In nine EU Member States, a drop between 30% and 40% was recorded.
Estonia, Romania and Bulgaria registered the lowest decreases with -29%, -28% and -21%, respectively.

Rail freight transport was less impacted by COVID-19. Expressed in tonnes, five EU Member States and Norway recorded an increase in 2020 compared to the previous year. Ireland registered the highest growth (+30%), followed by Bulgaria (+19%).

In contrast, a high decrease was observed in Latvia (-42%), followed by Estonia (-26%), Luxembourg (-18%), Spain (-17%) and Romania (-16%). In absolute terms, Germany was the country with the highest decrease in rail freight transport, with a 20 million tonnes drop in 2020 compared to 2019. Latvia followed with a decrease of 17 million tonnes over the same period.

For more information:

  • 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. Railway undertakings that are below the thresholds may be included for some countries.
  • Eurostat Statistics Explained article on railway freight transport statistics
  • Eurostat Statistics Explained article on railway passenger transport statistics – quarterly and annual data
  • Eurostat database on transport
  • Eurostat dedicated section on transport

www.ec.europa.eu/eurostat/