Combined transport in Europe shrank by 14.41% between April and June 2023 compared to the same period last year. This decline is comparable to the historical decline of 14.67% in the second quarter of 2020, which was the worst period for COVID closures. Q2 2023 was the third consecutive quarter of negative growth for European combined transport, according to the International Union of Combined Road and Rail (UIRR).
The UIRR Sentiment Index, which reflects business sentiment for the next 12 months, remains “negative”. The poor outlook for European combined transport is due to the fact that the European economy is experiencing difficult times, characterised by high inflation, low consumer confidence, the end of abundant and cheap energy and its multiple effects on transcontinental trade, while at the same time cost competitiveness is deteriorating, with rising track access charges and high traction power prices competing with flat road tolls and falling diesel prices.
Ralf-Charley Schultze, President of the UIRR, said: “The economic transition is expected to last until at least the end of 2024, so measures must be taken to support the combined transport sector, which has high fixed costs, during this period. Member State governments already have a wide range of options to support electric rail freight through measures such as reduced track access charges or caps on traction electricity prices. Timely implementation of European legislation adopted in recent years, such as the Mobility Package or the amendment of the Eurovignette Directive, could also help.