Deutsche Bahn passenger in the coronavirus pandemic

Photos: DB/Oliver Lang

EUROPE: Railway companies in European Union member states lost €27bn of revenue in 2020 and €23bn in 2021 as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, according to the Community of European Railway & Infrastructure Companies’ Covid Impact Tracker.

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Passenger operators suffered from ‘extremely low’ traffic between November 2020 and April 2021, with revenues down 50% and passenger-km down 60%. The summer season from May to October 2021 was relatively less severe with revenues down 25% and passenger-km down 30%.

There was a downturn in November and December 2021, but this was less pronounced than in 2020.

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In the freight sector, traffic collapsed in January 2021, but revenue losses stagnated at around 10% down on 2019 levels. An upswing appeared from October 2021, with figures almost back to normal.

Freight volume and revenue variations are highly correlated, and average volumes were down by 12% in 2020 and by 9% in 2021.

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While passenger-km and tonne-km have dropped, train-km appeared to have returned to normal, CER said, although the overall figures hide significant differences between countries. The trade association explained that infrastructure managers have been hit by insufficient compensation for pandemic-related reductions in track access charges, which could jeopardise medium and long-term maintenance and investment capabilities.

‘CER members continued to provide services in 2020 and 2021 proving the resilience of the rail system, keeping people and goods on the move across Europe’, said Executive Director Alberto Mazzola on February 10. ‘However, the amount of rail revenue losses in EU27 reached the alarming level of €50bn. Left uncorrected, this will have a long-lasting effect.’