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Document 52023DC0510

REPORT FROM THE COMMISSION TO THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND THE COUNCIL Eighth monitoring report on the development of the rail market under Article 15(4) of Directive 2012/34/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council

COM/2023/510 final

Brussels, 13.9.2023

COM(2023) 510 final


Eighth monitoring report on the development of the rail market under Article 15(4) of Directive 2012/34/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council

{SWD(2023) 288 final}


Eighth monitoring report on the development of the rail market under Article 15(4) of Directive 2012/34/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council

1.Main findings

Reliable monitoring of the rail market is fundamental to understanding market developments and taking informed policy decisions.

This report covers data up to 2020, including the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the sector.

There are several main findings for 2015-2020.

-On average, passenger traffic in terms of passenger-kilometres rose by 3% annually between 2015 and 2019. However, in 2020, passenger kilometres fell sharply by 46% due to the measures linked to the COVID-19 pandemic, including the travel restrictions 1 .

-Between 2015 and 2019, freight traffic in terms of tonne kilometres also rose annually by 3%. Rail freight was also impacted by the pandemic but to a lesser extent than passenger rail, experiencing a fall of 8% from 2019 to 2020.

-Between 2015 and 2019, in most countries, the modal share of passengers transported by rail increased slightly. However, in 2020, due to the pandemic, the share decreased by 2.4 percentage points. The pandemic had an impact on both the demand (individual preferences leading to a greater use of individual means of transport) and the supply (cancellation of some commercial trains) of railway transport.

-The length of the high-speed network increased by almost 1,500 km between 2015 and 2020, while the number of passenger-kilometres on high-speed services was drastically reduced in 2020 due to travel restrictions linked to the pandemic. However, 2019 figures show promising developments in the number of passenger-kilometres. Should the 2015-2019 trend in terms of increased passenger-km continue, the targets set in the Sustainable and Smart Mobility Strategy for passengers using high-speed services in 2030 and 2050 would be met and exceeded.

-Railway undertakings had 1,192 active licences in 2020, an increase of 100 licences compared to 2018.

-The average market share of new entrants to incumbents in 2020 was:

·46% of rail freight markets, an increase of 11 percentage points compared to 2015;

·14% of passenger markets (public service obligation (PSO) and commercial combined), an increase of 2 percentage points compared to 2015;

-rail remains one of the safest modes of transport;

-at the end of 2020, over 910,000 people were employed in the rail sector. This represents a slight decrease compared to 2018 figures.


This is the eighth edition of the rail market monitoring report that the Commission submits every two years to the European Parliament and the Council under Article 15(4) of Directive 2012/34/EU 2 . Its purpose is to provide an overview of the main developments in rail markets in the context of EU rail market policy 3 . The main focus of the Eighth report is on developments between 2015 and 2020, with references to 2019 data to highlight the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and on trends and policy developments extending beyond the reporting period up until the preparation date of this report.

In addition to Rail Market Monitoring (hereinafter RMMS) data submitted by the Member States and Norway, this report also draws on contributions from the statistical pocketbook EU transport in figures 4 , reports from the European Union Agency for Railways 5 , Eurostat 6 , statistics collected by various sectoral organisations, presentations and studies. Where the RMMS Regulation is the only source, the report assesses developments for 2015-2020 to ensure data comparability. When using other sources, the report also presents developments over a longer period.

Aggregated data and averages refer to EU-27 (current number of EU Member States 7 ).

2.Rail and sustainability

Rail has reduced its direct GHG emissions almost continuously since 1990, while carrying about 11.5% of freight and 5.1% of passengers across all modes in intra-EU transport in 2020. While rail has been continuosly reducing its emissions between 1990 and 2019, freight transported by rail increased by nearly 10% in terms of ton-km and passenger-kilometre numbers increased by about 35%. In general, rail is comparatively less polluting and more energy-efficient than other motorised means of transport. In 2020, rail accounted for 0.4% of both transport GHG and CO2 emissions and for 1.9% of transport energy consumption in the EU-27. To meet the objectives of the European Green Deal, rail will have to take up a bigger share of passenger and freight transport.

3.EU rail network

The total length of the EU-27 rail network in 2020 was around 201,000 line kilometres (0.4% less than in 2015). Around 57% of the network was electrified, an increase of 2,410 kilometres since 2015 (+2.2%).

Figure 1: Length of national networks per country (thousand line-km, 2020) and relative change (2015-2020)

Source: Statistical pocketbook, 2022.

The EU’s high-speed rail network stretched to over 11,500 kilometres by the end of 2020, an increase of 14.5% since 2015. Should the current trend to extend the network continue over the next decades, the length of the high-speed network would see an increase of about 50% for 2015-2030 and by a factor of 2.5 for 2015-2050. The Sustainable and Smart Mobility Strategy has set ambitious targets for high-speed rail traffic, which should double traffic volumes by 2030 and triple by 2050 compared to 2015 figures.

4.Evolution of rail services

After a decade of moderate increase in volumes, in 2020 the total number of EU train kilometres (both passenger and freight traffic) was severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Compared to 2019, in 2020 freight services declined by 8% in terms of train kilometres. Passenger services were more severely impacted as volumes declined by nearly half (46%) compared to 2019 levels. However, recent developments in the market seem to point to a return to pre-pandemic levels and, on certain segments, to even higher levels of supply and demand compared to pre-COVID times.

Figure 2: Passenger and freight volumes (pax-km, tonne-km and train-km, 2005-2020)


Source: RMMS, 2022. Infill data from various other sources and estimates. RO 2014 and PT 2020 were corrected due to an error of magnitude. RO 2015, LU 2015, LU 2016, HU 2016, LU 2019, HR 2019, NL 2019, LV 2020, and PL 2020 are EC estimates.

In 2020, rail transported some 1.4 billion tonnes of freight and 4.2 billion passengers.

The pandemic further accentuated the predominantly domestic dimension of passenger rail traffic. While before the pandemic, the proportion of international passenger services reached around 7% between 2015 and 2019, it shrank to less than 4% in 2020. A 2021 study 8 identified the main obstacles to long-distance cross-border rail, which included the variability of infrastructure charges, the capacity of rail infrastructure to cater for demand, the lack of suitable rolling stock, the fragmentation of ticketing systems, and the enforcement of passenger rights. The Commissions action plan to boost long-distance and cross-border passenger rail services 9 identified a set of measures to overcome these obstacles to long-distance and cross-border passenger rail services.

Figure 3: Evolution of rail passenger traffic volumes (domestic, international and proportion of international in total traffic) (billion pax-km, 2015-2020)

Source: RMMS, 2022. RO 2015, LU 2015, NL 2019, and HR 2019 are EC estimates.

The propensity of Europeans to travel by rail was on average 500 passengers-kilometres per inhabitant in 2020, a sharp fall compared to 2019 (934 km).

Between 2015 and 2019, the average modal share of rail increased from 7.6% to 7.8%. However, in 2020, due to the pandemic, the share of railways decreased by 2.4 percentage points, since people reverted to using their cars more.

Figure 4: Passenger land transport modal split by country (% in 2020) and change in percentage points for rail (2015-2019 and 2019-2020)