Over 6 percent less rail transport in 2020

© Hollandse Hoogte / Marcel van den Bergh
Last year, 40 million tonnes of goods were transported by rail in the Netherlands. This is 6.2 percent less than in 2019. The decline is entirely attributable to lower volumes of outbound and transit freight by rail: -9.5 and -5.9 percent respectively. Inbound rail transport rose slightly, while domestic transport remained almost the same. This is reported by Statistics Netherlands (CBS) on the basis of newly released figures.

Weight transported by rail, 2020*
RichtingWeight transported (% change relative to 2019)
*Provisional figures

In Q1 2020, the volume of goods transported by rail decreased by 5.9 percent. In Q2 and Q3, the decline amounted to 19.5 and 8.3 percent respectively. However, the volume increased in Q4, by 10.1 percent year-on-year, bringing the total decrease in 2020 to 6.2 percent.

The decline in the first quarters is partly related to lower demand for products and to disruptions in global production chains as a result of the coronavirus crisis.

More containers, but less weight

In 2020, the volume of container transport by rail - nearly 44 percent of the total weight - declined by 3.9 percent to 17.5 million tonnes relative to the previous year.

On the other hand, the number of containers transported (in TEUs) was up by 3.2 percent year-on-year.

Sharp drop in coal and metal ore transport

In terms of weight, coal and metal ores rank second in Dutch rail transport, after containers. These bulk goods are used for the production of steel, among other things. In 2020, the transport of coal (including crude oil and natural gas) and metal ores (including other minerals) was down on the previous year, by 15.7 and 20.6 percent respectively.

The volume of transported steel (including other metals and metal products) dropped by 12.8 percent last year. Rail transport of chemical products, on the other hand, saw an increase (+18 percent).

Weight transported by type of goods
Goederensoort2020* (million tonnes)2019* (million tonnes)
Container goods17.518.2
Coal and lignite, crude oil and natural gas78.3
Metal ores and other minerals56.3
Chemical products and man-made fibres3.73.1
Metals in primary form, metal products, other than machinery and appliances2.42.7
Other goods4.54
*Provisional figures

Sharp decline in outbound and inbound transport to and from Germany

As for outbound and inbound transport, the bulk of goods are transported to and from Germany. In 2020, the flow of goods by rail to Germany declined by 14.1 percent year-on-year, to 16.1 million tonnes. This is mainly due to the fact that coal and metal ores are important commodities that are transported from the Netherlands to Germany.

Outbound transport from Germany to the Netherlands declined as well, by 13.2 percent to 3.9 million tonnes. This decline was predominantly on account of container goods. Imports from other important trade partners, such as Italy and the Czech Republic, showed strong increases, resulting in total inbound transport rising by 0.8 percent relative to 2019.

Transit trade mainly between Belgium and Germany

As for transit trade, most goods go from Belgium to Germany via the Netherlands, and vice versa. In 2020, transit trade from Belgium to Germany fell by 20.6 percent to 1.3 million tonnes year-on-year. This decline was mainly attributable to container goods and to other non-metallic mineral products. Rail freight transport into the opposite direction, from Germany to Belgium via the Netherlands, rose by 12 percent to 1.1 million tonnes. This increase was mainly on account of chemical products and food, beverages and tobacco.

Another important flow within transit trade is the transport of motor vehicles and vehicle components. Last year, the tonnage of this freight type dropped by 36.6 percent to 0.5 million.

Weight transported by rail, by direction and destination
Land2020* (million tonnes)2019* (million tonnes)
Other countries3.22.8
Other countries2.62.4
Belgium to Germany1.31.7
Germany to Belgium1.11
Other routes1.71.7
*Provisional figures