Developments in the relevant markets
German passenger transport market
Passenger transport market in Germany
Motorized individual transport
Rail passenger transport
Public road passenger transport
Air transport (domestic)
Figures for 2019 and 2020 are based on information and estimates available as of February 2021.The growth rates for the overall market per mode of transport have been rounded.
The Covid-19 pandemic had a serious impact on the recently growing German passenger transport market in 2020: contact and travel restrictions have led to a drastic reduction in demand. People tend to prefer individual transport at the expense of public transport. Providers therefore reduced their services or temporarily suspending them completely. However, the extent to which this happened differed across individual market segments:
- Motorized individual transport reduced at some points up to 40 % in large cities and up to 60 % on Federal highways. During the course of the year, however, it benefited from the preference for individual transport as a safeguard from infection, a strong trend toward taking vacations in Germany, and low fuel prices. In the summer of 2020, it temporarily returned to the previous year’s level and significantly increased its market share.
- In the domestic German air transport there was already a significantly thinned-out offering at the beginning of 2020. With the Covid-19 pandemic, the volume sold fell by up to 99 %. The Lufthansa Group significantly reduced its flight program, while easyJet permanently discontinued domestic German flights. Market share contracted due to an extremely slow recovery in supply and demand.
- Rail passenger transport declined by up to 90 % on a selective basis due to the lack of demand for commuter, private and business travel. A basic offer was maintained throughout.
- Regional rail passenger transport recorded noticeable losses due to a lack of private and commuter travel. There was significant development of the intra-Group and external railways, but this varied considerably from region to region.
- Long-distance rail passenger transport started 2020 with substantial increases by reducing the VAT on long-distance tickets and extending services. Subsequently, the Covid-19 pandemic resulted in significant losses due to sharply declining private and business journeys. FlixTrain suspended its services for several months. The positive increase in demand in the summer was halted again by the travel restrictions during the second wave of Covid-19.
Overall, the market share declined significantly.
- Public road passenger transport suffered a massive loss of private and commuter journeys.
- In local transport, demand in many cities and municipalities fell temporarily by up to 90 %. The slump affected both intra-Group and external suppliers. Supported by the public transport authorities, however, a stable basic offer was ensured at all times.
- Long-distance bus services came to a standstill for several months. FlixBus, BlaBlaBus and Pinkbus
temporarily resumed a limited service, and Roadjet started as a new supplier with luxury buses.
Overall, the market share declined substantially.
German freight transport market
Freight transport market in Germany
Rail freight transport
Road freight transport
Inland waterways transport
Figures for 2019 and 2020 are based on information and estimates available as of February 2021.
After the recorded reduction in transport demand in the previous year due to the economic slowdown and decline in industrial production, this development continued at the beginning of 2020. Even before the Covid-19 measures were implemented in March 2020, there was a decline in performance across the different modes of transport. In the following months of April and May 2020, demand declines were recorded in the double-digit percentage range, with developments in the individual sectors clearly differing, for example, with a strong impact on the automotive/steel industry and a stable or positive development in the construction industry. In line with the importance of the sector for the individual modes of transport, the development of truck traffic in particular was more moderate, as it was not additionally burdened by particular effects due to the economic situation, such as structural changes in the context of the ongoing energy transition. It was not until late summer or fall 2020 that there were slight signs of recovery, although uncertainty remained until the end of the year. Overall, the market was characterized by the drop in demand for excess capacity and noticeable price competition, among other things due to attempts to compensate for canceled orders with new customer transactions.
- As in the previous year, truck transport benefited from the robust consumer sentiment and demand from the construction sector, which could not prevent the previous year’s level being undershot, but led to an above-average development.
- The previous year’s level could again not be reached for rail freight transport, which is mainly due to significant transport declines in the iron, coal and steel and automotive industries. Combined transport also declined.
- In inland waterway transport, the negative stimulus from the economy was additionally reinforced by temporary low-water restrictions.
In 2020, the Federal Statistical Office retroactively updated the results of the official statistics on rail freight transport up to 2016 as part of a comprehensive review. The audit was due to deviations in reports by individual companies from the methodological specifications of the official statistics, which were not known at the time of the initial publication. This results in deviations from our previous reporting.
Following the slight declines in the two previous years, the development of rail freight transport has deteriorated massively in 2020. The causes can be attributed to the further worsening of the industrial recession due to the Covid-19 measures, the resulting uncertainty, as well as structural changes in the context of the ongoing energy transition. According to our calculations, the sometimes massive losses in the coal/coke, iron ore, steel and scrap sectors alone – all crucial for rail – accounted for more than half of the total decline. There were also high losses in the area of automotive transport. Combined transport also made no contribution to growth, according to the information available to date. Positive developments, such as building materials handling and the assumption of additional supply transports during the shutdown, were able to mitigate the negative effects, but fell far short of compensating for them entirely.
After the non-Group’s railways still were able to increase volume sold in 2019, contrary to previous assumptions, our calculations showed that the level of the previous year could no longer be reached in 2020. The again above-average development is due, among other things, to a different freight structure. For example, the impact of the significantly reduced coal and steel traffic on the results of the non-Group railways is only half as great. According to the data published so far, there was also a sharp decline in automotive transport.
After the development of road freight transport had already significantly lost momentum in 2019, a significant decline was seen in 2020. However, this was relatively less severe, which is due not least to the differing freight structure. The increased transport share from groceries/consumer goods and construction industries had a positive effect, as did parcel shipments, in particular relating to e-commerce. The market share was able to be expanded again. The lower price of diesel did, however, dampen the pressure on costs, which was offset by increased costs due to increased organizational expenditure, and the issue of driver shortages and/or availability continued during the crisis.
The effects of the Covid-19 pandemic and the associated border restrictions are also responsible for the absence of the historically consistently above-average development of the trucks registered abroad. This is also reflected in the results of the Federal Office for Freight Transport’s toll statistics. With regard to the countries of origin, the previous year’s level could only be exceeded in individual cases. The largest decreases were recorded in truck transport, which had been shown to be a growth driver in recent years, with the Central and Eastern European region, in particular the Czech Republic, Romania and Slovakia.
Although in the previous year inland waterway transport recorded a strong performance increase, transport performance declined by an above-average rate in 2020. The market share could therefore not be maintained, and again approached the historical low of 6.8 % from 2018.
In addition to the interrupted demand driven by the economic situation/pandemic, the development was also burdened by low-water restrictions. These ranged from a reduction in the intake of possible cargo volumes to temporary reductions in freight shipping, for example on the Elbe toward the Czech Republic.
According to the data published so far, broken down by type of goods, the most significant decreases were observed in the areas of coal/coke, chemicals, building materials, iron ore/steel and mixed cargo/containers.
European rail freight transport market
Volume sold in European rail freight transport (EU 27, Switzerland, Norway and the United Kingdom) also fell significantly in 2020. The already negative economic environment was also severely impacted by the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The steel, iron ore, automotive and combined transport sectors were particularly affected. Due to China’s important role in international trade, the effects of the Covid-19 pan-demic were seen very early on in container transport, meaning that the hinterland traffic of the North Sea ports of Antwerp, Rotterdam and Hamburg also lost its stabilizing effect.
International freight transport and logistics markets (%)
European rail freight transport (based on tkm)
Figures for 2019 and 2020 are based on information and estimates available as of February 2021.
All the top railways in Europe suffered a significant drop in volume sold. This also affected DB Cargo, although developments in the respective countries were very different. The main negative effects were strong declines in demand in Germany, the United Kingdom, France and Poland.