European railways struggle to balance Covid-related losses

Motion blue of a Japanese mono rail

European railway services seem to face financial hurdles during the beginning of 2021. The year started ominously since Covid-related losses for passenger and freight services do not guarantee any improvement window for the following months. The Community of European Railway and Infrastructure Companies (CER) came to confirm its initial report form January with a follow-up study.

Rail freight experienced a relatively moderate impact compared to passenger traffic. According to CER, loses for freight operators range between -3 per cent and -32 per cent. Simultaneously, passenger operators experience a broader variation with losses ranging from -3 per cent to -91 per cent.

Unfortunately, the available numbers do not show any tendency for improvement in the coming period. In contrast, the declining trends observed in October 2020 seem to prevail over the slight upturn of the year’s end. “Since the beginning of the pandemic, railways have been second to none in keeping passengers and freight moving. But the pandemic took an unpreceded toll on their economic viability. It is all the more urgent that political decision-makers provide an adequate level of support to railway operators to mitigate the negative impact of COVID-19”, commented Alberto Mazzola, Executive Director at CER.

January figures

The EU rail freight industry suffered 2 billion in revenue loss than the previous year, indicating a 12 per cent decrease. The damage was much more extensive for passenger traffic: the industry lost 42 billion euros in revenue, a 42 per cent decrease compared to 2019. In total, The EU railway industry lost 26 billion euros in revenue last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Author: Nikos Papatolios

Nikos Papatolios is editor of, the online magazine for rail freight professionals.

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