More than what you think: How railway transport contributes to the EU economy

Posted: 16 October 2014 | | No comments yet

A new study prepared by Dutch consulting company Ecorys reveals the positive economic performance of the European railway sector…


A new study prepared by Dutch consulting company Ecorys reveals the positive economic performance of the European railway sector. The European railway sector has above-average productivity levels and is the backbone of a major export success story.

According to Ecorys estimates, the EU railway sector, so including both train operation and railway infrastructure management, directly employs 1.06 million people and directly generates EUR 66 billion in gross value added annually. Measured in these terms, the rail sector’s contribution to GDP is higher than that of air or water transport. Including indirect economic effects relating to supplier relations and to the effects of infrastructure investments leads to a total estimated contribution of EUR 142 billion – or 1.1% of EU GDP.


In terms of productivity the rail sector performs far better than what may be commonly believed. After many years of reform and restructuring, the sector’s labour productivity started to increase. Still below the economy-wide average in 2003, the rail sector had clearly overtaken the average by 2012. The EU railway market is also the spring-board for a very successful European railway manufacturing sector.

The EU railway supply industry is the largest in the world, with a 20% share in global trade. It is also a high R&D intensity sector – meaning high-skill jobs for Europe.

In a still-fragile economic environment in which growth and jobs are rightly defined as top political priorities, railway transport has much to offer. Railway companies have well-developed vocational training schemes and emerging trends suggest a good potential for new hire over the medium-run.

These findings, alongside well-established performance in environmental sustainability and safety, demonstrate the rail sector’s attractiveness for public investments. Indeed, railway infrastructure projects generate a host of wider economic benefits at the local and regional levels. The study presents four case studies of major European success stories, covering examples in high-speed rail, rail freight, and railway passenger stations.

CER Chairman and ÖBB CEO Christian Kern said: “Investing in rail means investing in the future. This is not about choosing between a cleaner environment on the one side, and growth and jobs on the other. It is in fact about getting both – it is about generating benefits in all areas.”

The study – The Economic Footprint of Railway Transport in Europe – was carried out by Ecorys for the Community of European Railway and Infrastructure Companies (CER). It was presented to EU policy-makers in Brussels on 15 October and is now available from the CER web-site.