News 04 May 2021

CER COVID Impact Tracker: a bleak first quarter for railways

The pandemic and the consequent lockdowns continue to impact heavily on rail. Compared to 2019 figures, passenger revenues remain at half of what they were in pre-crisis times (stagnating at -51% since November 2020). Revenues from freight meanwhile are deteriorating (from -3% in December 2020 to -10% in the 1st quarter of 2021). Infrastructure managers are also seeing increased losses, up from -8% in summer 2020 to -13% in the 1st quarter of this year. These are the findings of the latest “COVID Impact Tracker” carried out in April by the Community of European Railway and Infrastructure companies (CER) among its members.

Investigating infrastructure losses for the first time, this latest CER survey clearly indicates that rail continues to be affected across the board by the ongoing pandemic. Targeted support to railways to mitigate the negative impact of COVID-19 is urgently needed and is indispensable for the sector’s recovery and future growth. 

CER Executive Director Alberto Mazzola said: “Achieving the European Green Deal objectives will require a significant modal shift to rail. Railways have the capacity to support both recovery and Europe’s sustainable transition but we need to ensure that they emerge strong enough from this crisis to do so. Substantial compensation of current losses, but also lowering charges on operators while compensating infrastructure managers for the related lost revenues, are indispensable to help the sector get through this difficult period.” 

PASSENGER services
After a small relief in summer 2020, passenger losses started to worsen in October to reach -51% in November 2020 (compared to the same period of 2019). Losses consistently remained at around -51% during the next four months until March 2021, with weekly losses close to €600 million/week (in EU27).

FREIGHT services 
Following an almost normal month of December (-3%), freight revenues plummeted to -10% where they have remained until March 2021. Losses are nevertheless 5% lower than in the 1st semester of 2020, the start of the COVID crisis. In March, average weekly losses were above €30 million/week (in EU 27).

Investigated for the 1st time in April 2021 by the “CER COVID Tracker”, infrastructure data has shown a sharp decrease of infrastructure managers’ revenues since the start of 2021 (-13%). Q1 2021 losses are almost as high as what they were in the first half of 2020 at the start of the COVID crisis. Reasons for this are multiple, but their respective weight has not yet been ascertained.

More information, including our last COVID Impact Tracker updates are available on the CER website here.