According to the Community of European Railway and Infrastructure Companies (CER), the European rail transport recorded a loss of EUR 26 billion in revenue in 2020 due to COVID-19 pandemic.
Passenger services were more affected than freight, but the pandemic is taking its toll across the board, CER says. The rail passenger transport services recorded a turnover decrease of 40%, with EUR 24 billion less compared to the previous year. The freight rail transport decreased by 12%, registering a loss of EUR 2 billion.
While these figures are daunting enough, they only show part of the picture. Whereas freight seems to have managed to somewhat mitigate losses in the second half of 2020, the situation of passenger services started to deteriorate again in the autumn, after a short upswing during the summer, to reach record-high revenue losses of -50% in December.
“The COVID-19 crisis is impacting heavily on railways. However, the rail sector is showing resilience and capacity to help fight the pandemic and assist society on the road to recovery. Getting Europe’s economy back on track while continuing to bring down global emissions is a pressing dual challenge. The European Year of Rail is a timely recognition of the role railways can and should play on these fronts,” CER Executive Director Alberto Mazzola said.
Keeping European mobility operational during the COVID-19 pandemic has been vital. Despite heavy losses in revenue, railways continue to do their utmost to keep essential freight and passenger services running, while protecting their customers and staff.
The figures are the result of a close monitoring and assessment of CER in collaboration with all its members and the data collected. The association brings together railway undertakings, their national associations as well as infrastructure managers and vehicle leasing companies. The members made of private and public companies, represent 71% of the rail network length, 76% of the rail freight business and about 92% of rail passenger operations in EU, EFTA and EU accession countries.
CER hopes for a better future for the European rail sector as the EU is committed to develop and invest this transport sector as it is the most green and sustainable transport mode. Rail emits less CO2 than equivalent travel by road or air, accounting for only 0.4% of the EU GHG emissions, while all EU transport accounts for 25% of the EU’s total emissions. In addition, is the only transport mode that has reduced its emissions and energy consumption between 1990 and 2017.
According to the seventh Rail Market Monitoring (RMMS), during 2015-2018 (in EU27), the rail traffic increased annually by 2.5% for passengers and by 4.1% for freight. During the same period, rail’s modal share of land transport modes increased from 7.6% to 7.8% for passengers and decreased from 18.8% to 18.7% for freight.
On medium and long-term, the EU intends to transform the entire transport sector by shifting 75% of the freight road transport to rail and inland waterways and by 2050, the rail freight traffic will be double. On passenger sector the EU want to double the high-speed rail traffic by 2030 and to triple it by 2050, compared to 2015.