The Netherlands sees drop in rail freight in 2020

In the Netherlands, 40 million tons of goods were transported by rail last year. This is 6.2 per cent less than in 2019. This decrease was entirely due to the decrease in port export and throughput on the Dutch rail by 9.5 and 5.9 per cent respectively. The port import of goods by rail increased slightly, while inland transport remained almost unchanged. Statistics Netherlands (CBS) reports this on the basis of new figures.

In the first quarter of 2020, the amount of goods transported by rail decreased by 5.9 per cent. In the second and third quarters this was 19.5 per cent and 8.3 per cent respectively. In the fourth quarter, the amount of goods increased by 10.1 per cent compared to the fourth quarter in 2019. This brought the total decrease in 2020 to 6.2 per cent. ProRail previously spoke of a decrease of 5 per cent in 2020.


The decline in the first quarters is related, among other things, to the partial drop of demand for products and disruptions in global production chains as a result of the corona crisis. The amount of goods transported in containers by rail—nearly 44 per cent of the total weight—decreased by 3.9 per cent in 2020 to 17.5 million tons compared to the previous year. The number of containers transported in TEUs, on the other hand, increased by 3.2 per cent last year compared to 2019.

After containers, the bulk commodities coal and metal ore are transported most by rail in terms of weight. These bulk goods are used, among other things, for the production of steel. The transport of coal (including crude oil and natural gas) and metal ore (including other minerals) decreased in 2020 compared to a year earlier by 15.7 per cent and 20.6 percent, respectively. The amount of steel transported (including other metals and metal products) fell by 12.8 per cent last year. Chemical products, on the other hand, were transported 18 per cent more by rail.


Most goods are transported to and from Germany within the supply and transport sector. In 2020, the flow of goods by rail to Germany decreased by 14.1 per cent compared to a year earlier to 16.1 million tons. This decrease is mainly due to the fact that coal and metal ores are important groups of goods that are transported from the Netherlands to Germany.

The supply from Germany to the Netherlands also decreased last year: by 13.2 percent to 3.9 million tons. This decrease was mainly caused by goods in containers. The supply from other important partner countries, including Italy and the Czech Republic, is showing strong increases, resulting in a 0.8 per cent increase in total supply in 2020 compared to 2019.


In transit, most goods go from Belgium via the Netherlands to Germany and vice versa. Transit from Belgium to Germany decreased by 20.6 per cent in 2020 to 1.3 million tons compared to the previous year. This decrease was mainly due to goods in containers and other non-metallic mineral products.

The amount of goods transported by rail in the other direction, from Germany via the Netherlands to Belgium, rose by 12 per cent last year to 1.1 million tons. This increase was mainly due to chemical products and foodstuffs and tobacco. Another important flow within the transit is the transport of cars and car parts. This goods group decreased by 36.6 per cent to 0.5 million tons in 2020.

Author: Paul van den Bogaard

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