European rail freight keeps suffering financial losses
The numbers for the first semester of 2021 keep looking sombre for rail freight in Europe. The COVID-19 impact is still visible, and the situation has worsened compared to the second half of 2020. Rail freight losses between January-May 2021 keep persisting on an average of -11 per cent in volumes and revenues for operators.
The data provided by the Community of European Railway and Infrastructure Companies (CER) are not sufficient to provide a complete picture of the situation. That is so because many operators did not report their data. Nevertheless, even for those who reported them, financial and volume losses seem to follow a decreasing trend. The situation looks even more worrying for passenger traffic, with volumes showing a minimal increase since November 2020 and revenues remaining steadily at -50 per cent.
Infrastructure managers most affected
Despite volumes returned to normal levels between March-May 2021 for infrastructure managers (IMs), this does not seem to be the case for their revenues. Specifically, their losses remain at approximately -10 per cent. What causes this imbalance, and IMs keep losing money despite volumes almost returning to normal? The answer lies in the waiver, reducing or deferring track access charges that many EU states adopted as a tool against the insecurity caused by the pandemic.
Rail operators welcomed these measures. However, their implementation seems to have taken place inadequately because many IMs have not been compensated for the financial losses caused by them. CER warned about this situation a couple of months ago and explained that the phenomenon is mainly due to an administrative backlog which makes the whole process of reducing track access charges very complicated.
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