PASSENGER revenues remained at half the levels of the first quarter of 2019 in the first quarter of 2021 according to the Community of European Railways and Infrastructure Companies (CER), which says the Covid-19 pandemic and associated lockdowns are continuing to have a heavy impact on its members.

CER analysed the results of its latest Covid Impact Tracker, which found that revenues have stagnated at a 51% loss since November 2020 compared with pre-crisis. This equates to a reduction of nearly €600m a week in March.

Revenues from rail freight are deteriorating according to CER. They were down 3% year-on-year in December but have since slipped to a decline of 10%. In March, rail freight operators were reporting a €30m per week loss of revenues compared with the pre-crisis period.

The report also includes the impact on infrastructure managers for the first time and found that revenues have fallen by 13% in the first quarter compared with pre-Covid and a loss of 8% compared with last summer. CER says first quarter losses are almost as high as they were during the first half of 2020 at the start of the crisis. The association says there are multiple reasons for this but their respective weight in the decline has not be ascertained. It adds that targeted support for railways to mitigate the negative impact of Covid-19 is urgently needed.

“Railways have the capacity to support both recovery and Europe’s sustainable transition but we need to ensure that they emerge strong enough from this crisis to do so,” says Mr Alberto Mazzola, CER executive director. “Substantial compensation of current losses, but also lowering charges on operators while compensating infrastructure managers for the related lost revenues, are indispensable to help the sector get through this difficult period.”