Rail freight transport booming in Europe

Freight transport by rail on the Rotterdam-Genoa connection, one of the main European routes, grew by 1.8 per cent in 2016. This accounts for an increase of nearly 170,000 international freight trains. In recent years, freight transport by rail has seen fierce competition from road transport and transport by water. The share of rail freight transport from the North Sea ports via Switzerland to Italy has risen by 6.8 per cent, whereas road transport has fallen by 3.4 per cent.

Today, Minister Dijksma (Infrastructure and the Environment) is meeting her counterparts from Italy, Switzerland, Germany, and Belgium in Leipzig to discuss the measures that are required to extend the upward trend in freight transport by rail.

Ms Dijksma: ‘The growth in rail freight transport is important for the sector, and consequently for our economy. In addition, it offers huge environmental gains, as an average train carries 52 times more goods than a lorry, yet generates up to 80 per cent less greenhouse gas emission. That is why I will continue to do everything I can to make railway transport as attractive as possible to carriers and shippers.’

Follow-up to Rotterdam railway summit

Last year, during a special railway summit, chaired by the Netherlands, the European Ministers set down agreements aimed at increasing the appeal of rail transport. For example, the exchange of information between carriers, shippers, and infrastructure managers needs to improve. Last year saw investments in “track & trace” provisions on trains to this end. Currently, studies are being conducted to explore how information on (expected) arrival times can be shared among the various trains, infrastructure managers, and terminals in the various countries at the earliest possible stage.

The introduction of longer trains is also expected to generate a considerable expansion of rail transport capacity. At the Leipzig summit, the Ministers will discuss possibilities for having the first 740 m trains – more than 200 m longer than current trains – operate on the Rotterdam-Genoa route by 2021.


On behalf of the Netherlands, Minister Dijksma is making a case for enhancing the adaptation of freight rail transport to the living environment of residents in the vicinity. For example, the conversion of brake pads on transport trains is currently being tackled. This will contribute to achieving the goal of having 80 per cent of rail transport carried out by quiet trains by 2020.