Passenger transport statistics
From Statistics Explained
- Data from September 2012. Most recent data: Further Eurostat information, Main tables and Database.
This article provides details relating to recent trends for passenger transport statistics within the European Union (EU). It presents information on a range of passenger transport modes, such as road, rail, air and maritime transport. Among these, the most dominant mode of passenger transport is that of the car, fuelled by a desire to have greater mobility and flexibility. The high reliance on the use of the car as a means of passenger transport across the EU has contributed to an increased level of congestion and pollution in many urban areas and on many major transport arteries.
Main statistical findings
Passenger cars accounted for 84.1 % of inland passenger transport in the EU-27 in 2010, with buses and coaches (8.8 %) and railways, trams and metros (7.1 %) both accounting for less than a tenth of all traffic (as measured by the number of inland passenger-kilometres (pkm) travelled by each mode) – see Table 1.
Between 2000 and 2010 there was a marked increase in the relative importance of the use of passenger cars among many of the Member States that joined the EU in 2004 or 2007, in particular in Bulgaria, Poland, Estonia and Slovakia; there were also substantial increases in the use of passenger cars in Greece as well as in Turkey. By contrast, the relative importance of cars as a mode of inland passenger transport fell in seven of the EU-15 Member States. The most sizeable reductions in the relative importance of the car between 2000 and 2010 were recorded in Luxembourg (the share of the car in total inland passenger transport falling 9.2 percentage points) and Belgium (-4.8 points) due mainly to an increased use of buses and coaches. The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (-8.4 points) and Switzerland (-2.0 points) also recorded a contraction in the relative importance of the car for inland passenger transport, with the former also recording a relative increase in the use of buses and coaches and the latter an increase in the relative use of railways, trams and metro.
In the vast majority of EU Member States, gross domestic product (GDP) grew faster than the level of inland passenger transport between 2000 and 2010 – see Table 2. This was most notably the case in Slovakia, where GDP grew about two fifths faster than the rate of growth for inland passenger transport, and to a lesser extent in Bulgaria, Latvia and Hungary. The main exceptions to this general pattern were Lithuania and Poland where the rate of growth of inland passenger transport was more than one tenth faster than the rate of growth for GDP; other exceptions were recorded for Portugal, Greece, Cyprus, Luxembourg and Malta. Among the non-member countries shown in Table 1, Norway recorded faster growth in inland passenger transport than GDP over the period under consideration, as did the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (between 2000 and 2008).
It should be underlined that the analysis above refers only to inland transport by car, bus or train and that a significant proportion of international passenger travel is accounted for by maritime and air transport passenger services, while in some countries national (domestic) maritime and air transport passenger services may also be noteworthy.
Reliance on cars for passenger transport was particularly high in Lithuania, Poland, the United Kingdom, Slovenia, the Netherlands and Germany, where cars accounted for 86 % or more of all inland passenger-kilometres in 2010; a high usage of passenger cars was also recorded for Iceland and Norway. Passenger cars accounted for less than three quarters of all inland passenger-kilometres in the Czech Republic and Hungary, as well as in Turkey. Around one quarter of the inland passenger-kilometres travelled in Hungary were by bus or coach, a share that was exceeded in Turkey (45.7 %).
Among the EU Member States the relative importance of the use of buses and coaches was lowest in the Netherlands where these modes of transport accounted for 3.9 % of the modal split, although an even lower share (3.5 %) was observed in Switzerland.
The modal share of railways, trams and metros in total inland passenger transport was highest in 2010 among the EU Member States in Hungary (11.8 %), followed by Austria (11.2 %); the share was substantially higher in Switzerland (17.9 %). In total there were 360 551 million passenger-kilometres travelled on national railway networks within the EU-27 (excluding Luxembourg and the Netherlands) in 2009; this figure was considerably higher than the 22 538 million passenger-kilometres travelled on international journeys.
More than two thirds of all rail travel (national and international combined) was accounted for by the four largest EU Member States (note that neither Cyprus nor Malta has a railway network), with France and Germany together accounting for more than two fifths of the EU’s passenger rail travel. The number of international passenger-kilometres travelled by French passengers (in 2009) was more than twice the level for Germany which in turn recorded a figure that was 2.5 times as high as that for the United Kingdom in 2010.
In order to compare the relative importance of rail transport between countries the relative importance of rail transport, the data can be normalised by expressing the level of passenger traffic in relation to population. France (2009), Sweden and Denmark registered the longest distances travelled on national railways in 2010, each of these countries averaging more than 1 000 passenger-kilometres per inhabitant. In terms of international rail travel, the longest distances per inhabitant covered by rail were recorded for Luxembourg, Austria and France (2009); these were the only EU Member States to report averages of more than 100 passenger-kilometres per inhabitant. These figures may reflect, among others, the proximity of international borders, the importance of international commuters within the workforce, access to high-speed rail links, and whether or not international transport corridors run through a particular country.
London Heathrow was the busiest airport in the EU-27 in terms of passenger numbers in 2011 (69.4 million), followed – at some distance – by Paris’ Charles de Gaulle airport (58.0 million, 2010), Frankfurt airport (56.3 million), and then Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport and Madrid’s Barajas airport (both with just under 50 million passengers) – see Figure 2.
With the exception of Barajas, the overwhelming majority (at least 88 %) of passengers through the other four largest airports in the EU were on international flights. By contrast, national (domestic) flights accounted for 34.4 % of the passengers carried through Barajas in 2011. There were also relatively high proportions of passengers on national flights to and from Paris Orly (53.0 %, 2010), Barcelona airport (36.8 %) and Roma Fiumicino (34.6 %).
Almost 777 million passengers were carried by air in 2011 in the EU-27 – see Table 4. The number of air passengers in the EU-27 stagnated in 2008, fell by 5.9 % in 2009, and subsequently rebounded by 6.0 % in 2010.
The United Kingdom reported the highest number of air passengers in 2011, with just over 201 million or 3.2 passengers per inhabitant (which was double the EU-27 average). Relative to population size, the importance of air travel was particularly high among the EU Member States for the popular holiday islands of Cyprus and Malta (8.6 and 8.4 passengers carried per inhabitant) in 2011, as well as for Iceland (7.7) and Norway (6.6). The lowest ratios were recorded for Slovakia, Romania, Poland, Slovenia, Lithuania, Hungary and Bulgaria, each reporting less than 1.0 air passengers carried per inhabitant in 2011.
Table 4 also shows that ports in the EU-27 handled almost 400 million maritime passengers in 2010; this marked the third successive annual decline in passenger numbers, down 2.0 % compared with 2009, after falls of 2.2 % in 2009 and 0.3 % in 2008. Italian and Greek ports each handled more than twice as many passengers in 2010 than in any other Member State (accounting for 22.2 % and 21.2 % of the EU-27 total respectively). The next busiest ports in terms of passenger numbers were in Denmark (42 million passengers), followed by ports in Sweden, the United Kingdom, Germany and France which each handled between 27 million and 30 million passengers in 2010; ports in Croatia handled 25 million passengers.
Relative to national population, the importance of maritime passenger transport was particularly high in Malta (19.5 passengers per inhabitant), followed by Denmark (7.6), Greece (7.4) and Estonia (7.1); other than Finland, Sweden and Italy, the number of maritime passengers per inhabitant in 2010 averaged less than 1.0 in each of the remaining EU Member States.
Data sources and availability
The majority of inland passenger transport statistics are based on vehicle movements in each of the reporting countries, regardless of the nationality of the vehicle or vessel involved (the ‘territoriality principle’). For this reason, the measure of passenger-kilometres (pkm, which represents one passenger travelling a distance of one kilometre) is generally considered as a more reliable measure, as a count of passengers entails a higher risk of double-counting, particularly for international transport. The methodology used across the EU Member States is not harmonised for road passenger transport. As such, the figures, especially those for the smallest reporting countries, may be somewhat unreliable.
The modal split of inland passenger transport identifies transportation by passenger car, bus and coach, and train; it generally concerns movements on the national territory, regardless of the nationality of the vehicle. The modal split of passenger transport is defined as the percentage share of each mode and is expressed in passenger-kilometres. For the purpose of this article, the aggregate for inland passenger transport excludes domestic air and water transport services (inland waterways and maritime).
The level of inland passenger transport (measured in passenger-kilometres) may also be expressed in relation to GDP; within this article the indicator is presented based on GDP in constant prices for the reference year 2000, with the series converted into an index with a base of 2000=100. This indicator provides information on the relationship between passenger demand and the size of the economy and allows the intensity of passenger transport demand to be monitored relative to economic developments.
A rail passenger is any person, excluding members of the train crew, who makes a journey by rail. Rail passenger data are not available for Malta and Cyprus (or Iceland) as they do not have railways. Annual passenger statistics for national and international breakdowns generally only cover larger rail transport enterprises, although some countries use detailed reporting for all railway operators.
Air transport statistics concern national and international transport, as measured by the number of passengers carried; information is collected for arrivals and departures. Air passengers carried relate to all passengers on a particular flight (with one flight number) counted once only and not repeatedly on each individual stage of that flight. Air passengers include all revenue and non-revenue passengers whose journeys begin or terminate at the reporting airport and transfer passengers joining or leaving a flight at the reporting airport; excluded are direct transit passengers. Air transport statistics are collected with a monthly, quarterly and annual frequency, although only the latter are presented in this article. Air transport passenger statistics also include the number of commercial passenger flights, as well as information relating to individual routes and the number of seats available. Annual data are available for most of the EU Member States from 2003 onwards.
Maritime transport data are generally available from 2001 onwards, although some EU Member States have provided data since 1997. Maritime transport statistics are not transmitted by the Czech Republic, Luxembourg, Hungary, Austria or Slovakia, as none of these has any maritime traffic.
A sea passenger is defined as any person that makes a sea journey on a merchant ship; service staff are not regarded as passengers, neither are non-fare paying crew members travelling but not assigned, while infants in arms are also excluded. Double-counting may arise when both the port of embarkation and the port of disembarkation report data; this is quite common for the maritime transport of passengers, which is generally a relatively short distance activity.
EU transport policy seeks to ensure that passengers benefit from the same basic standards of treatment wherever they travel within the EU. With this in mind the EU legislates to protect passenger rights across the different modes of transport.
Legislation for aviation (Regulation 261/2004 establishing ‘common rules on compensation and assistance to passengers in the event of denied boarding and of cancellation or long delays of flights’) and rail travel (Regulation 1371/2007on ‘rail passengers’ rights and obligations’) are already in force. For bus and coach travel, Regulation 181/2011 was adopted in February 2011 and applies as of March 2013; for sea and inland waterway passenger transport, Regulation 1177/2010 was adopted in November 2010 and applies as of December 2012.
Passengers already have a range of rights covering areas as diverse as: information about their journey; reservations and ticket prices; damages to their baggage; delays and cancellations; or difficulties encountered with package holidays. Specific provisions have also been developed in order to ensure that passengers with reduced mobility are provided with necessary facilities and not refused carriage unfairly. In December 2011, the European Commission adopted ‘A European vision for passengers: communication on passenger rights in all transport modes’ (COM(2011) 898 final). This acknowledges the work undertaken to introduce passenger protection measures to all modes of transport but notes that a full set of rights is not completely implemented. The Communication aims to consolidate the existing work, and move towards a more coherent, effective and harmonised application of rights alongside better understanding among passengers.
In March 2011, the European Commission adopted a White paper, the ‘Roadmap to a single European transport area – towards a competitive and resource efficient transport system’ (COM(2011) 144 final). This comprehensive strategy contains a roadmap of 40 specific initiatives for the next decade to build a competitive transport system that aims to increase mobility, remove major barriers in key areas and fuel growth and employment. More information on the White paper is available in the transport introduced article.
Further Eurostat information
- Transport, see:
- Transport, volume and modal split (t_tran_hv)
- Volume of passenger transport relative to GDP (tsdtr240)
- Modal split of passenger transport (tsdtr210)
- Railway transport (t_rail)
- Rail transport of passengers (ttr00015)
- Road transport (t_road)
- People killed in road accidents (tsdtr420)
- Air transport (t_avia)
- Air transport of passengers (ttr00012)
- Transport, see:
- Regional transport statistics (tran_r)
- Victims in road accidents at regional level (tran_r_acci)
- Maritime transport of passengers at regional level (tran_r_mapa_nm)
- Air transport of passengers at regional level (new methodology) (tran_r_avpa_nm)
- Maritime transport of passengers at regional level (old methodology) (tran_r_mapa_om)
- Air transport of passengers at regional level (old methodology) (tran_r_avpa_om)
- Annual national and international railway passenger transport by region of embarkation and region of disembarkation (tran_r_rapa)
- Transport, volume and modal split (tran_hv)
- Volume of passenger transport relative to GDP (tran_hv_pstra)
- Modal split of passenger transport (tran_hv_psmod)
- Railway transport (rail)
- Railway transport measurement - passengers (rail_pa)
- Railway transport - Accidents (rail_ac)
- Road transport (road)
- Road transport measurement - passengers (road_pa)
- Road transport - accidents (road_ac)
- Maritime transport (mar)
- Maritime transport - Passengers (mar_pa)
- Air transport (avia)
- Air transport - Accidents (avia_ac)
- Air transport measurement - passengers (avia_pa)
Methodology / Metadata
- Air transport infrastructure (ESMS metadata file - avia_if_esms)
- Air transport measurement - passengers (ESMS metadata file - avia_pa_esms)
- Manual on air transport statistics methodology
- Maritime transport (ESMS metadata file - mar_esms)
- Methodological notes on maritime transport statistics are published in Maritime transport of goods and passengers - Statistics in focus 09/2006 (annual)
- Modal split of passenger transport (ESMS metadata file - tran_hv_psmod_esms)
- Railway transport - Accidents (ESMS metadata file - rail_ac_esms)
- Railway transport measurement - passengers (ESMS metadata file - rail_pa_esms)
- Regional transport statistics (ESMS metadata file - reg_tran_esms)
- Volume of passenger transport relative to GDP (ESMS metadata file - tran_hv_frtra_esms)
Source data for tables and figures (MS Excel)
- Common Questionnaire of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), Eurostat and the European Conference of Ministers of Transport (ECMT; more recently the International Transport Forum – ITF) on rail transport statistics
- Illustrated glossary for transport statistics, 4th edition, 2010