Only modest growth for rail freight transport in the Netherlands

Image: portofamsterdam.comPort of Amsterdam

After doubling the net volume of freight between the mid-1990s and 2008, there is virtually no growth in rail freight transport in the Netherlands. This is evident from the 2019 Transport Monitor published by the Dutch Consumer and Market Authority. The successor to the Rail Monitor, published annually until now, reports a net volume of 42.6 million tonnes of freight transported by train, which is 2.4 per cent more than in 2018.

Both domestic and total international rail transport increased by 1 and 2.5 per cent respectively. The growth in international transport is due to the export and transit of goods. The supply of goods from abroad actually decreased, as it did in 2018. Germany is the most important destination of trains from the Netherlands. Of all goods transported from the Netherlands abroad in 2019, almost three quarters had Germany as their destination.

In 2019, seventeen rail freight operators were active on the Dutch railway network. With a market share of 45 to 50 per cent, DB Cargo is by far the largest carrier of goods on the Dutch railways. It is followed at a distance by parties such as Lineas, Captrain, Rotterdam Rail Feeding, LTE and RTB Cargo. Each of them has a market share of 5 to 10 per cent, and together they account for 35 to 40 per cent of the rail freight market.

Train kilometres

The number of train kilometres for freight transport is considerably lower than that of passenger transport, 11.2 million compared to 153.6 million for passenger trains. This difference means that passenger transport operators travel about 93 per cent of train kilometres. According to the ACM figures, the total number of train kilometres travelled shows a slight upward trend.

The purple line is for passenger traffic, the grey line for freight traffic

The development of gross tonne-kilometres for passenger and goods trains shows an increasing trend, particularly for passengers. Gross tonne-kilometres are calculated in a way that a train with a weight of 100 tonnes travelling 10 kilometres on the track represents 1000 tonne-kilometres. This number refers to gross tonnage, and for goods trains, it is calculated by adding the train’s weight to the load. For passenger trains, the number of tonne-kilometres increased by 8 per cent between 2015-2018, mainly due to the use of larger and therefore heavier trains on average. For freight, there is very little growth in tonne-kilometres. The number of tonne-kilometres for goods trains amounts to almost 15 billion tonne-kilometres, compared to about 42 billion for passengers.

Volume virtually unchanged

The volume, in millions of net tonnes, of rail freight transport, is developing positively. Net means that it only concerns the load and not the weight of the train itself. From the mid-1990s to 2008, the number of net tonnes more than doubled, while in the period since then, the rail freight volume remained almost unchanged. In 2019, 42.6 million tonnes of goods were transported by train. The largest part concerns exported goods, primarily exported goods from the Port of Rotterdam.

In the Transport Monitor, the ACM publishes the most important figures for transport modalities like bus, tram, metro, train and rail freight transport. This Transport Monitor replaces the ACM’s Rail Monitor. According to ACM, the expansion of rail transport is necessary because the market for public transport has changed in recent years. “With the rise of Mobility as a Service (MaaS), people increasingly think in terms of travelling ‘from door to door’,” said the ACM in the report. Besides, the ACM’s supervision focuses on all public transport modalities included in this Transport Monitor.

The monitor also shows that the turnover in public transport increased by more than 20 per cent between 2015 and 2019. In 2019, the transport operators jointly reached 4 billion euros in passenger revenues. This growth was proportionally higher than that of the number of passenger kilometres, which increased by 11 per cent in the same five years. The operating subsidy increased slightly in this period by 3 per cent to 0.75 billion euros.

The article was originally published in Dutch, at our sister publication

Author: Marieke van Gompel

Marieke van Gompel is editor of and chief editor of the ProMedia Group online magazines.

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