MultiClient study: European Rail Freight Transport Market 2019

In 2017, the rail freight performance on the European rail network almost reached the performance level of its pre-crisis years.

Rail freight traffic in Europe shows noticeable growth - For the first time, former state railways stabilise their market share compared to private operators


In 2017, the rail freight performance on the European rail network almost reached the performance level of its pre-crisis years with particularly the former state railways in Poland, Italy, and Austria showing an increased transport performance. Intermodal transport on the north-south axis played a central role for the operators. Especially the Visegrád1 countries and Slovenia recorded significant growth in rail freight traffic.

After Belgian rail freight company Lineas, which went through a radical reorientation, PKP Cargo, Mercitalia, and Green Cargo could report a growth in their transport performance in Europe again. Especially PKP Cargo returned to profitability after the operator restructured its business. Other companies, such as the Austrian operator Rail Cargo Austria, benefited from the good economic situation in Europe in 2017. Particularly in the markets of the Visegrád group and Slovenia, a significant increase in transport performance was recorded in addition to significant economic growth. The transport performance in Europe rose to 469 billion tonne-kilometres in 2017 and forecasts indicate that the pre-crisis level of 474 billion tonne-kilometres will be reached in the next two years. In Germany, the largest European rail freight traffic market, the transport performance statistic had to be corrected upwards by 13 billion tonne-kilometres. However, the additional transport performance was recorded by the private freight traffic companies, which strongly expanded their market share in Germany in the past three years. In Europe, the decline in the market share of the former state railways was stopped for the first time. Many of these operators are increasingly positioning themselves transnationally and are recording growth outside their home market. 

The intermodal transport is the main driver in rail freight traffic and hinterland transports of European ports in particular are growing steadily while coal transports are in decline due to structural change. To secure a steady market growth in the future and to increase the share of goods transported by rail in Europe, investments in infrastructure, cross-border traffic, automation, and digitalization are urgently required. The governments of various European countries have realized that urgency and started to implement several important and necessary reforms in 2017.

The MultiClient study “European Rail Freight Transport Markets 2019” is available now (in English) from SCI Verkehr GmbH ( Please also find more information about our latest offer of the data annex in Excel-format, which will be available for all upcoming study publications.


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