The COVID-19 pandemic continues to be felt by European rail companies, with 2021 figures released by the rail sector showing losses across the board, despite EU attempts to promote rail transport.
The number of passengers is half of what it was before the health crisis, i.e. weekly losses of nearly 600 million euros. Freight revenues fell from -3% in December 2020 to -10% in April 2021 compared to 2019.
Figures released by the Community of European Railway and Infrastructure Undertakings (CER) – an industry group representing rail companies including German Deutsche Bahn, French SNCF and Italian Ferrovie dello Stato Italiane – show a trend continues compared to last year, when it was announced. that the rail companies had lost 26 billion euros as a result of the pandemic.
Organizations that manage rail infrastructure, such as rail lines, equipment and control systems, have also experienced a slowdown, with losses dropping from -8% in summer 2020 to -13%.
Alberto Mazzola, CER’s executive director, called for âsubstantialâ compensation for current losses and lower charges to help the sector weather the COVID slowdown.
“The railways have the capacity to support both the recovery and the sustainable transition of Europe, but we have to make sure that they emerge strong enough from this crisis to do so,” he said in a statement.
The losses occur in the middle of the European year of rail, an EU initiative to encourage travelers to choose the train over more polluting modes of mobility, thereby reducing transport emissions and giving the rail sector a chance.
However, pandemic restrictions in most European countries have left many of the events planned to celebrate the year canceled or postponed.
The ‘Connecting Europe Express’, an EU-launched train that would visit cities across the continent to celebrate the benefits of traveling by train, has already seen its departure date postponed due to health concerns.
Given the limited success of the European Year of Rail so far, companies have called on the EU to extend the initiative until 2022.
“We can only note that the restrictive health context prevents the full deployment of the activities of stakeholders to promote rail,” wrote the railway associations in an open letter addressed to the leaders of the European Commission, Parliament and Council.
But some lawmakers believe 2022 would be better dedicated to celebrating air travel, another transport sector that has suffered from a drop in passenger numbers.
In March, MEPs from the Sky & Space intergroup of the European Parliament wrote a letter to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Transport Commissioner Adina VÄlean, urging them to declare 2022 as the European Year of the World. ‘aviation”.
A formal decision on next year’s designation has yet to be made.
[Edited by FrÃ©dÃ©ric Simon]