Measured in tonne-km, the first half of 2015 represented a more gentle 1.1% reduction to 55.9 billion tonne-km.

Strikes by drivers union GDL which affected the largest railfreight operator DB Schenker in April and May are blamed for some of the loss, although the decline also reflects changing traffic patterns. Domestic German volumes - the largest sector - barely changed, falling by 0.1%, but coal and oil/gas dropped 13.1% and intermodal also slid 13.7% to 2.8 million TEU.

The decline in these sectors reflects a 13.1% year-on-year reduction in imports by rail, and export traffic also fell by 5.1%. The only significant growth area was chemical products, which climbed 8.4% to 21.9 million tonnes.

There appears to be some evidence that traffic affected by the strikes will recover as monthly growth in June was the highest for four years at 12.4%.