European rail freight rebounds

Rail freight in the EU is picking up slightly in 2021 after two years of weakness. According to Eurostat figures, 8.7% more freight was carried by rail last year than in 2020. This is a significant improvement on 2019 and 2020, during which EU freight volumes, calculated in tonnage per kilometre, increased by 2.2% and 6.1% respectively. The statistics office attributed the decrease, among other things, to the restrictive measures introduced against the coronavirus at the time. The fourth quarter of 2020 saw the first increase in cargo volume. This will continue in 2021, with particularly strong figures in the second quarter of this year. Since then, sales volume has increased 20.5% year-on-year. In other quarters, the increase was much lower.

Not all countries saw the same increase in rail freight. Volumes also fell in Denmark, Portugal, Lithuania, Latvia, Ireland, Croatia and Hungary. In Denmark and Portugal, the decline was more than 18%. Estonia performed best, with a volume increase of almost 23%. Spain, Slovakia, Italy, Germany, France and Romania also showed strong growth, with volumes increasing by more than 10% in all these countries. In the Netherlands, there was an increase of around 8%. In absolute terms, Germany came out on top last year. The country recorded an increase of 14.7 billion tonne-kilometres by rail this year. In total, Germany transported 123 billion tonne-kilometres in 2021. This is a whopping 31% of the EU total. Poland and France follow in second and third place with 54 and 36 billion tonne-kilometres of rail traffic this year respectively. Greece, Luxembourg and Ireland saw the least amount of rail freight traffic this year.