Macroeconomic context

During 2019, the global macroeconomic scenario showed signs of weakness for both developed countries, with more export-oriented economies, and emerging countries.

The global economy reflected weak growth due to:

  • the slowdown of manufacturing and investments;
  • the continuing trade war between the US and China (which tapered at the end of the year);
  • the developments about conflicts in various parts of the world and the crisis in the automotive industry, facing more stringent emissions standards in Europe and China.

According to the consulting company Prometeia, the growth in global trade volumes stopped at 0.3% and economic growth, i.e., Gross Domestic Product (GDP), only went rose 3.0%, the lowest rate recorded in the past ten years.

The economic growth rate slowed in the Eurozone as well, with average GDP growth of 1.2% on the previous year. The complex situation abroad was offset by the favourable domestic contribution of household consumption, sustained by a solid labour market, which recorded the lowest unemployment rate of the past ten years: 7.5%. GDP grew in all major Eurozone countries, albeit with differences: the highest growth was seen in Spain (+2.0%) and France (+1.3%) and was lower in Italy (+0.2%) and Germany (+0.5%). Eurozone inflation was relatively low throughout the year, stabilising at 1.2%.

Traffic of main European railway companies

In an economic scenario characterised by slow growth, railway transport demand followed the same trend as that of general mobility demands, posting uneven results for passenger and freight mobility.

The European railway passenger segment increased significantly on the previous year. In accordance with the most recent data of the UIC (Union Internationale des Chemins de Fer), the growth in traffic volumes was roughly 5.5% compared to the same period of the previous year and, at the same time, services offered, in train-km, increased by roughly 1.4%. One of the most important railway companies in Europe, the French SNCF Mobilites posted the most significant increase (+12%), followed by the Spanish Renfe (+1.5%), while the German DB AG remained stable compared to the previous year.

On the contrary, the railway freight segment underperformed the previous year. In fact, provisional figures of the UIC showed that railway traffic volumes in Europe fell by 2.8% on the same period of the previous year, even more than industrial production. Except for SNCF Mobilites, whose volumes grew by 13.6%, and Renfe, with a slight increase of 0.7%, all European railway companies recorded a fall in volumes.

Source: 2019 Annual Report