Deutsche Bahn passenger in the coronavirus pandemic

Photos: DB/Oliver Lang

EUROPE: The coronavirus pandemic continues to have a heavy impact across the rail sector, according to the Community of European Railway & Infrastructure Companies’ Covid Impact Tracker.

 Having surveyed its members, CER reported that passenger revenues had stagnated at around half of pre-crisis levels, while freight revenues had deteriorated from -3% in December 2020 to -10% in Q1 2021. Infrastructure managers were also seeing an increase in losses from -8% in the summer of 2020 to -13% in Q1 2021.


CER losses data passenger

After a small relief in summer 2020, passenger losses started to worsen in October, falling to -51% year-on-year in November 2020. Losses consistently remained at around -51% during the next four months until March 2021, representing a revenue shortfall of close to €600m/week across the EU member states.


CER losses data freight

While freight revenues were ‘almost normal’ in December at -3%, CER found that they then plummeted to -10% where they have remained until March 2021. Nevertheless, freight losses are around 5% lower than at the start of the coronavirus crisis in the first half of 2020. In March 2021, the average losses across the EU 27 were greater than €30m/week.


CER losses data infrastructure

Infrastructure managers were included in CER’s Covid tracker for the first time in April. The association found a -13% decrease in infrastructure managers’ revenues since the start of 2021, with losses in Q1 2021 almost as high as in H1 2020. CER believed that there were multiple reasons for this, although their respective weightings had not yet been ascertained.

Targeted support

CER said targeted support was urgently needed to mitigate the negative impact of Covid-19 and ensure the recovery of the rail sector in order to cope with future growth.

‘Achieving the European Green Deal objectives will require a significant modal shift to rail’, emphasised Executive Director Alberto Mazzola on May 4. ‘Railways have the capacity to support both recovery and Europe’s sustainable transition but we need to ensure that they emerge strong enough from this crisis to do so.

‘Substantial compensation of current losses, but also lowering charges on operators while compensating infrastructure managers for the related lost revenues, are indispensable to help the sector get through this difficult period.’