Latest CER COVID Impact Tracker: continued losses for rail in 2021
The economic situation of railways in the EU continues to show very little sign of improvement. Revenues from January to May 2021 have in fact worsened across the board, compared to the 2nd semester of 2020. The June update of the ‘CER COVID Impact Tracker’, carried out by the Commu-nity of European Railway and Infrastructure Companies (CER), shows clearly that reported monthly revenue losses since January 2021 have remained consistent (compared to 2019 pre-crisis times):
- -50% for PASSENGER services,
- -11% for FREIGHT Services,
- -12% for INFRASTRUCTURE Services.
This latest round of the CER tracker includes volume data which has been obtained mainly from passenger and infrastructure companies.
PASSENGER volumes have dropped by 2/3 (-66%) from November 2020 onwards (compared to 2019 levels) and remained at this level until April 2021. May shows a slight improvement at -59%. Revenue losses remain at around -50%.
FREIGHT volume data is insufficient for reporting. But, for those freight operators who delivered data, revenues and volumes tend to vary in about the same proportion: -11% on average since January 2021.
INFRASTRUCTURE volumes almost returned to normal levels from March to May (-2% in train-km), while revenue losses persisted: -10%. Revenues and volumes tend to vary in about the same proportion for most infrastructure man-agers, apart from two who have lost significantly more revenues than volumes – these two companies are the reason for the gap shown on the chart. This is linked to reductions of infrastruc-ture charges not compensated by their Member States.
CER welcomes the European Commission’s decision in June to extend the reference period of Regulation (EU) 2020/1429, that allows Member States to authorise infrastructure managers to waive, reduce or defer track access and reservation charges until the end of the year. The rail sector also highly appreciates the approval by the Commission’s Directorate-General for Competition (DG COMP) of several State aid schemes which reduce rail track access charges.
However, it should be noted that the estimated losses of revenues of the infrastruc-ture managers appear much higher in Member States where track access charges were reduced, which shows that it is important that the reduction or waiver, on the basis of Regulation 2020/1429, should always be accompanied by Member States’ compensation of the financial losses suffered by infrastructure managers.
During the ‘2021 Rail Summit’ organised by the German Government on 17 May 2021 European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen stressed that “it is very important that the rail sector emerges stronger from this crisis”, and that Europe needs “rail as a sustainable mode of transport more than ever to achieve our goals of the European Green Deal”.
CER Executive Director Alberto Mazzola said: “State aid policy of the Commission should be aligned with the EU environmental objectives. Sectors suffering roughly the same amounts of losses in the EU as railways but far less environment-friendly, have received five times more State aid to mitigate negative impact of COVID-19 than rail. It is crucial to redress this imbalance in support.”
More information is available on the CER website at www.cer.be/covid-19-news