Thursday 19 November 2020

Traffic trends in the first half of 2020 for member railways in the UIC Europe region and elsewhere

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The monthly traffic data from January 2019 to June 2020 provided by 28 passenger operators and 23 freight operators, all members of UIC, gives a general idea of the recent trends displayed by rail transport in UIC Europe region [1], and reveals the strong impact of Covid-19 on the activity. It is worth noting that the impact is much more significant for passenger transport (Figure 1) than for freight (Figure 2).

Indeed, rail passenger transport (Figure 1, passenger-kilometres) fell sharply between February and April 2020 according to all traffic data reported by companies. The fall was more marked for companies based in the European Union (EU), with -48% on average for the first half of 2020 in comparison with the first half of 2019, than for Russian (-42%) and other European companies (-38%). It can be mentioned that Bulgarian, Romanian and Turkish companies recorded a lower drop during this same period (between -25% and -35%). Similarly, SNCB in Belgium recorded a drop of only -27%. Inversely, RENFE (ES, -55%), SNCF (FR, -52%) and DB (DE, -42%) were all impacted to a far greater extent.

In April, passenger traffic was almost at a standstill for the large majority of companies represented in this survey. Subsequently, traffic gradually increased from May 2020, with a more marked recovery in June, but performance remained weak with a pkm volume 50% lower than that of June 2019 on average.

If we look at statistics for the first half of 2020 published by Eurostat for the EU countries [1], the trend assessed compared to 2019 is similar as that quantified in Figure 1, i.e. -46% for Eurostat vs -48% for UIC.

Regarding the transport of goods by rail (Figure 2, tonne-kilometres), the slowdown in the first half of 2020 compared to the first half of 2019 was less marked than for passenger transport. It should be pointed out that some railways, such as BDZ in Bulgaria and TCDD in Turkey, even recorded a positive trend during this same period, with +16% and +7%, respectively. RZD in Russia, for its part, recorded a decrease of -5%. Unfortunately, the slowdown for companies based in the EU was more significant, with -15% on average (in line with Eurostat publication [1]). This tended to accelerate the general decrease recorded in recent years, linked among other things to the decline in external trade by railway between the EU and other European and Asian countries since 2008 [2].

For railway companies outside Europe, the trend in passenger traffic was more or less similar to that recorded for Europe, but this differed for freight traffic. This was particularly the case for companies in Northern Africa, where values for pkm were between -50% and -45% while the trend for tkm was neutral (ONCF, MA) or positive (SNTF, DZ +11%). The same was true for Sub-Saharan companies with about -55% pkm for SNCC (CD) and SETRAG (GA) and -13% and +50% tkm, respectively. In North America, passenger traffic was strongly slowed down with -57% for AMTRAK (US) and -70% for VIA RAIL (CA), but rail freight was slightly less impacted [3]. For the Asian companies represented in our survey, the drop in pkm was less marked for TRA (Chinese Taipei) with -23%, and tkm for KTZ (KZ) increased by 3.5% in comparison with the first half of 2019.


Thank you to all the statistical correspondents who cooperated actively in providing the data used in this brief note from the Statistics Group.
UIC Statistics webpage:
Download UIC data:

[1Russian and Turkish railways are included in the UIC Europe region. Please note that not all railways took part in the survey and consequently only a partial view of the railway market is presented here.

For further information, please contact the UIC Statistics department:

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Figure 1. The left-hand panel shows monthly passenger traffic in millions of pkm for the period from January 2019 to June 2020. Aggregates of UIC railway members for which data is available are represented by region, “EU” and “Other Europe”, plus the Russian railways “RZD”. The list of railways included in the aggregates is shown in the right-hand panel. Also represented in this bar chart is the individual annual passenger traffic in billions of pkm by company for the 1st half of both2019 and 2020. Please note that only some European railways took part in the survey.
Figure 2. Same as Figure 1 but for freight traffic, i.e. tkm in millions. As with passenger transport by railway, please note that some European railways did not take part in the survey. The overview of the European railway market presented here is thus a partial one.