French rail market report: strong recovery in freight traffic

French rail market report: strong recovery in freight traffic
@Pass Horizon on Unsplash

Rail freight traffic grew and returned to 2017 levels, thanks to combined transport.

The French Transport Regulatory Authority (ART) published a report on the rail transport market in 2021. The report provides information on the trend of the rail freight and passenger market, which in 2021 was still affected by the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, and highlights several important issues for rail transport policy, including the financial balance of SNCF Réseau, the quality of infrastructure and services, and the monitoring of greenhouse gas emissions.

Rail freight activity grew 5.4% in 2021 and was above 2019 levels (and at the same level as 2017), mainly due to a 20% increase in combined transport (in tonne-kilometers), accounting for 39% of freight activity. The incumbent operator Fret SNCF, which is still dominant with a 49% market share, faces dynamic competition, including within the SNCF group (notably Captrain and Naviland Cargo).

The combined transport market is even more open, with a large number of combined transport operators (no trains traction) accounting for 56% of the train path bookings and only 18% of the share for the incumbent operator. By contrast, the combined transport train business remains concentrated, with the incumbent freight operator SNCF maintaining its dominant position with a 49 % market share.

In 2020 and 2021, investment in the national rail network (RFN), especially in high-speed lines (LGVs), increased, reaching a total of €5.4 billion (i.e. 12% more than in 2019), but this has not yet reduced the average age of the track, especially on high-speed lines, which still show a significant need for future renewal.

In terms of passenger rail transport, its share of traffic in France was 8.6% in 2021. Compared to 2020, there was an increase, but it still remained 1.3 percentage points lower than in 2019, in favour of road transport. Nevertheless, it is noticeable that the overall recovery of rail passenger transport in France in 2021 was more dynamic than in most European countries.

Join Our Circle of Insiders: Receive the Weekly Digest That Keeps You Ahead!

Not using RAILVIS Platform yet?

Rent a wagon, sell a locomotive, find a container, convert free capacity to profit. The RAILVIS Platform is the tool you need. It's faster, better organized, and more secure than email or phone calls.

Try RAILVIS Railway Marketplace
RAILVIS screenshot