The Future Needs More Rail Freight

27 May 2020


It is in times like these that we can see how vital RAIL FREIGHT is to the daily lives of our nations and companies. Without RAIL FREIGHT, the threat of shortages in essential products like drinking water, food and medicine would be much higher. Europe needs RAIL FREIGHT more than ever. Our joint vision is this: to transform RAIL FREIGHT into a high-performing, efficient and sustainable backbone of the European transport system for the benefit of society.

The time is now. We have ten years to drastically shift to sustainable transport and keep our climate targets achievable. Let’s seize the opportunity with the Green Deal to create the right context for the Modal Shift. Let’s reinvent rail and again challenge the status quo of how we do transport. We need everyone present here to unite behind this single purpose of Modal Shift: rail companies, infrastructure managers, policymakers, everyone. By 2030, I hope to see that rail has become the backbone of the European transport system.” - Geert Pauwels, CEO at Lineas

More RAIL FREIGHT for our economies

The RAIL FREIGHT sector plays a key role in sustaining European industrial and commercial networks, taking care of 100% of clients’ orders while other modes of transport have come to a standstill or have faced massive restrictions during crises such as the one we have been going through. Our widespread territorial implementation is closely related to European industries’ territoriality as well as port connections. It also grants Europe sovereignty with respect to other continents. Moreover, RAIL FREIGHT has a tremendous load capacity with low numbers of drivers and one train transporting as many as about 40 trucks. The future needs more RAIL FREIGHT because RAIL FREIGHT is ready to sustain the relocation of industrial production on the continent.

More RAIL FREIGHT for the climate

The huge human, social and financial cost of the sanitary crisis that has hit the world gives us an idea of the consequences that the global warming crisis will also have on our lives and economies if we do not step up our act now. In the past, the freight transport industry has been accountable for a large part of polluting carbon emissions. However, RAIL FREIGHT is turning the tide. RAIL FREIGHT has proven tremendously efficient for cutting down on CO2 emissions (9 times fewer emissions than road transport!) The future needs more RAIL FREIGHT because RAIL FREIGHT will help us become a carbon neutral continent in 2050, as required by the European Green Deal. The only way we will achieve the Green Deal’s targets is with more RAIL FREIGHT.

More RAIL FREIGHT for the future

Like most of other industries, the current sanitary crisis has dangerously worsened conditions for the sector. From mid-February to end of April 2020, this represents an approximate estimated loss of turnover of close to €1 billion* for the RAIL FREIGHT industry. Extrapolated over the rest of the year, the total loss could well amount to €4 billion** in 2020.

Because it is a solution for our future, RAIL FREIGHT needs short-term and long-term support from European and national public authorities more than ever.


RFF is the driving force behind a pan-European coalition of railway undertakings, industry partners and unions. Our goal is to create a high-performing and sustainable RAIL FREIGHT network throughout the Europe of today and the Europe of tomorrow. Within the RFF coalition, members and partners dedicate time, effort and capacities to projects continuously advancing RAIL FREIGHT for the benefit of society. RAIL FREIGHT is the way forward if we want to make the livable and sustainable Europe of the future a reality.

For detailed information on current projects, please visit:

*These figures are an extrapolation by CER based on CER members’ input.
** CER estimate