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Rising up: 6th PRIME Benchmarking Report highlights recovery of the rail sector in 2021

The Platform of Rail Infrastructure Managers in Europe (PRIME) has released its sixth benchmarking report, covering the years 2017–2021 and featuring data from 19 participating infrastructure managers. The report showcases the adaptability of rail transport during the global Covid-19 pandemic and emphasizes the industry's progress towards a more sustainable future.

Despite the unprecedented drop in ridership in 2020, rail traffic demonstrated a remarkable recovery in 2021, as highlighted in the PRIME Benchmarking report. Passenger train activity increased for almost all European infrastructure managers, with some even surpassing their pre-pandemic values. Freight train utilization also showed positive developments, with a significant number of infrastructure managers reporting higher utilization in 2021 compared to pre-pandemic levels. However, the recovery in train activity did have an impact on punctuality, which saw a decline in 2021 after an initial improvement in 2020.

The report also indicates an increase in expenditure, with operating expenses (OPEX) recording a 4% rise and capital expenses (CAPEX) increasing by 9% compared to the figures from 2020. Additionally, there has been progress in greening the rail industry, with a 0.6% increase in the share of electrified main track-kilometers and a 1% increase in the use of electricity-powered trains across the PRIME participants.

This positive development aligns with the ambitions set by the European Green Deal and the EU Smart and Sustainable Mobility Strategy, however the progress still needs a further boost. The requirement for an efficient, reliable, and environmentally friendly transport system to address both climate crisis and geopolitical challenges becomes more and more evident. The steady increase in expenditure by infrastructure managers reflects the commitment to invest in rail infrastructure, ensuring the development of a connected, modern, and competitive European transport system.

The report, published on June 23, presents key figures and insights on European rail infrastructure managers’ safety, performance, revenues, and expenditure. It is available on the PRIME website.