Nearly 12 percent less freight transported by rail in 2023

© ANP / Erik van 't Woud
A total of 39.3 million tonnes of goods were transported by rail in the Netherlands in 2023. That was 11.5 percent less than in the peak year of 2022, which saw the largest volume of freight transported by rail ever. This decline was mainly attributable to the amount of coal and goods containers transported. Statistics Netherlands (CBS) reports this on the basis of new figures.

Freight transported by rail
JarenFreight transported (by weight) (millions of tonnes)

Nearly 44 percent of rail freight (by weight) is carried in containers. Container freight fell by 11.5 percent in 2023, relative to 2023, to 17.3 million tonnes. The number of containers transported also declined, by 11.5 percent. Most goods transported in containers originate from or are destined for Germany and Italy. The volume of goods transported in containers within the Netherlands declined the most; from 2.2 million tonnes to 1.6 million tonnes (down by 27.9 percent).

Less coal and metal ore transported by rail

After goods in containers, the most common types of cargo transported by rail in the Netherlands are coal and metal ore. In 2023, 22.1 percent less coal and 4.6 percent less metal ore was transported by rail. Other common types of goods also saw a fall in the volume transported by rail compared to the previous year. The volume of chemicals transported was down 3.7 percent, and the volume of metals (including steel) transported was down by 10 percent.

Freight transported, by type of freight
Goederensoort2023 (millions of tonnes)2022 (millions of tonnes)
Goods in containers17.319.6
Coal and lignite, crude oil and natural gas7.59.6
Metal ores and other minerals4.54.8
Chemical products and synthetic or man-made fibres3.23.3
Metals in primary form and metal
products (excl. machines and equipment)
Other goods4.74.9

Freight volumes declining in both directions

The majority of rail freight is loaded onto rail in the Netherlands and unloaded abroad. However, the volume of freight exported fell to 24.0 million tonnes in 2023, a decline of 12.0 percent compared with the previous year. In particular, the amount of coal transported to Germany fell by 22.3 percent.

A total of 10.1 million tonnes of freight arrived from Germany, representing a fall of 4.0 percent. This decline was attributable mainly to goods in containers (down by 10.1 percent) and metal ores and other minerals (down by 38.3 percent). Bulk imports of products in the category of agriculture, forestry and fisheries increased in 2023 (up by 45.3 percent). This group includes cereal crops and maize.

Both domestic transport and the transit trade (goods transported between two locations outside the Netherlands via the Dutch railway system) declined last year, by 27.3 percent and 15.8 percent, respectively.

Freight transported, by direction of travel
Richting2023 (millions of tonnes)2022 (millions of tonnes)