Rail freight in the eu: trucks lose out to trains

The European Union actually wanted to shift freight transport to the railways. But the railroads are too slow.

Freight train in Switzerland Photo: dpa

The railroads are having a hard time in freight transport – and not only in Germany. Despite various efforts to increase the railroads’ share of the transport volume, they are not succeeding in the EU. This was criticized by the European Court of Auditors on Tuesday.

In total, the EU supported rail transport projects with around 28 billion euros between 20. Despite this, it said, rail freight has not held its own in competition with road transport. "The overall performance of rail freight transport remains unsatisfactory," the Court of Auditors criticizes.

According to the report, the annual volume of freight transported by rail remained relatively constant from 2000 to 2012. It amounted to about 400 billion ton kilometers. By contrast, the volume of goods transported by road increased over the same period, from 1,522 to 1,693 billion tonne-kilometers.

The market share of rail freight transport fell from 19.7 percent to 17.8 percent over the same period, while the market share of road freight transport increased slightly from 73.7 percent to 75.4 percent. In contrast, Switzerland managed to increase the share of rail freight to 48 percent.

In addition, the average speed of freight trains in the EU is very low, amounting to only about 18 kilometers per hour on many international routes, the Court of Auditors complains. This is due, among other things, to inadequate cooperation between national infrastructure managers, it says.

In the Court’s view, more money alone will not help. The regulatory problems are too great for that. The EU Commission and the member states would have to work towards strengthening the competitiveness of rail freight, especially in terms of reliability, frequency, flexibility, customer orientation, transport time and costs.