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Rail freight traffic – worldwide 2018 & 2019

In 2019, goods traveled approximately 3.1 billion tonne kilometers by rail in Europe and Turkey, ranking slightly lower than Asia/Oceania/Middle East, where almost 3.5 billion tonne kilometers of cargo was transported by railroad in the same year. Rail freight traffic generally grew worldwide between 2018 and 2019, with the exception of Africa, where there was a slight drop in freight activity on its railroads.

A connected European network

Centrally located and transporting roughly 120 billion tonne-kilometers of freight annually, Germany represents the largest rail freight market in Europe, followed by Poland and France. Further investment in high-speed railroad networks in economically developing regions such as eastern Europe is expected to facilitate growth in overall regional rail freight traffic, rail capacity, and revenue. This will especially be of relevance in the context of the Belt and Road project, which will optimize the efficient movement of goods by rail directly between eastern Europe and China.

South Africa leads the African rail freight market

The Africa region has one of the least dense railway networks worldwide, with only South Africa boasting a comprehensive network that covers a large proportion of its land. Responsible for around two-thirds of the continent’s performance in terms of rail freight haulage, South Africa dominates the rail freight market in the region. Nevertheless, rail freight activities in Africa overall rose sharply from a low base in 2018, reaching just over 155 billion tonne-kilometers, indicating that further growth in the region is possible, particularly if more is invested in rail infrastructure across the entire continent.

Global rail freight traffic between 2018 and 2019, by region

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Release date




Survey time period

2018 and 2018

Supplementary notes

* Includes Turkey

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Statistics on "Rail industry worldwide"

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