Railway safety statistics
From Statistics Explained
- Data from October 2012, most recent data: Further Eurostat information, Main tables and Database.
This article takes a look at recent annual statistics on rail transport accidents in the European Union (EU). Safety in rail transport steadily enhances over the years: in 2011, the number of accidents has decreased compared to 2010 (-2.3 %) and the number of victims has also significantly declined over the same period (-10.1 %).
Main statistical findings
In 2011, there were 2 325 persons killed or seriously injured in railway accidents in the EU-27, around 10.1 % less than in 2010. Suicides are in principle excluded from these statistics, but not all Member States can identify them in the statistics sent to Eurostat.
A total of around 2 685 significant train accidents were registered in the EU-27 in 2011, representing a decrease of 2.3 % compared to 2010: this is in line with the regular declining trend observed since 2004.
Three Member States responsible for almost half of the victims in the EU-27
To measure the relative safety of rail transport, the number of accidents and the related number of victims have to be linked to traffic performance (expressed in passenger-kilometres and tonne-kilometres).
In absolute terms, three countries accounted for 48 % of all rail victims registered in the EU-27 in 2011, namely Poland, Germany and Romania. The picture is different when considering the average number of persons killed or injured per accident. The high ratio recorded by Luxembourg (2 persons killed or injured per accident) is not significant due to the very low number of accidents (only one accident). The rates observed in Slovenia (1.5) and to a lesser extent, in Romania (1.2) are clearly above the EU-27 average (0.9) which remained relatively stable compared to 2010. For all EFTA countries and Candidate countries this ratio is below the EU average with the exception of Croatia (1.2) and Turkey (1.0).
When analysing the relation between passenger transport performance and rail safety using the number of passengers killed per passenger-kilometre, five countries record ratios of more than three times the EU-27 average (0.11 passengers killed per billion passenger-kilometres). This group of Member States is made up of the Czech Republic (0.74), Poland (0.57), Bulgaria (0.49) Slovakia (0.41) and Hungary (0.39). Out of the EFTA and Candidate countries, Turkey registers the highest ratio, with 0.17 passengers killed per billion passenger-kilometres in 2011.
Ireland and Liechtenstein are the only countries for which no victim (killed or injured persons) was reported in 2011.
Two types of accident caused more than 98 % of fatalities
For all participating countries, the most common types of accident with victims are accidents caused by rolling stock in motion and those happening at level-crossings. In 2011, these two categories represented 92.9 % of the total amount of victims and 98.2 % of the fatalities.
Only a minority (16.4 %) of rail accident victims in the EU-27 were actually passengers travelling on trains or railway employees. The majority, the remaining 83.6 %, was constituted of ‘other persons’ (e.g.: level-crossing users or unauthorised persons on railway premises). However, several types of accidents are especially serious for passengers and employees: this is the case for derailments (100 % of the fatalities caused by this type of accident were registered among passengers and employees in 2011) as well as for collisions (80 %).
At country level, 327 fatalities were registered in Poland, 152 in Germany and 100 in Romania. For these countries, the majority of victims were linked to accidents caused by ‘rolling stock in motion’ (80 % for Poland, 78 % for Romania and 68 % for Germany).
Within the European Union, the highest share of fatalities due to collisions in the total number of fatalities was recorded in Finland (20 %), followed by Germany (7 %).
At EU-27 level, only 4 persons lost their lives in 2011 in accidents due to derailments: 2 in Poland, 1 in the Czech Republic and 1 in France. No person died due to fire in rolling stock.
Low number of fatalities per billion passenger-kilometres
As the number of passengers killed in rail accidents is very low each year, it is important to keep in mind that one single accident - or even one single victim - can have a big impact when comparing countries or the annual number of passengers killed per billion passenger-kilometres.
The Czech Republic registered the highest ratio in 2011 (0.74 passengers killed per billion passenger-kilometres) ahead of Poland (0.57): all the other reporting countries recorded a ratio under 0.50 in 2011. For a majority of countries, this indicator improved or remained constant between 2010 and 2011.
Data sources and availability
The figures presented in this publication have been extracted from the Eurostat rail transport database on 09/10/2012. It includes the statistics on rail accidents in the Member States, EFTA and Candidate countries, collected according to the Regulation 91/2003. Please note that all accidents are significant accidents.
Country-specific notes - country characteristics of data availability
(see country codes)
- Cyprus: No railway transport
- Malta: No railway transport
Table 2 and Figure 2: quarterly transport performance data have to be provided only by the railway undertakings covered by so called detailed reporting (transport performance above the thresholds set in the Regulation – 500 million tonne-km or 200 million passenger-km). Railway undertakings which are below the thresholds may be included either in the detailed reporting or in the simplified reporting. It means that quarterly transport performance figures do not include smaller undertakings under simplified reporting. On the other hand, the 2010 annual data used when quarterly data for 2011 are not available (in italics) cover undertakings under detailed reporting and undertakings under simplified reporting.
- Significant accident
Any accident involving at least one rail vehicle in motion, resulting in at least one killed or seriously injured person, or in significant damage to stock, track, other installations or environment, or extensive disruptions to traffic. Accidents in workshops, warehouses and depots are excluded.
- Significant damage to stock, track, other installations or environment
This means damage that is equivalent to EUR 150 000 or more.
- Serious injury accident
Any accident involving at least one rail vehicle in motion, resulting in at least one killed or seriously injured person. Accidents in workshops, warehouses and depots are excluded.
- Level crossing accident
Any accident at level crossings involving at least one railway vehicle and one or more road vehicles, other users of the road such as pedestrians or other objects temporarily present at or near the track.
- Accident to persons caused by rolling stock in motion
Any accident to one or more persons that are either hit by a railway vehicle or part of it or hit by an object detached from the vehicle. Persons that fall from railway vehicles are included, as well as persons that fall or are hit by loose objects when travelling on-board vehicles.
- Person killed (Fatality)
Any person killed immediately or dying within 30 days as a result of an accident, excluding suicides. It includes passengers, employees and others persons specified or unspecified person involved in a rail injury accident.
- Person seriously injured
Any person injured who was hospitalised for more than 24 hours as a result of an accident, excluding attempted suicides.
- Rail passenger
Any person, excluding members of the train crew, who makes a trip by rail. For accident statistics, passengers trying to embark/disembark onto/from a moving train are included.
As a category of victim, "others" includes, for example, level crossing users and trespassers.
|0||actual zero or very negligible transport|
The content of this statistical article is based on data collected within the framework of the EU rail transport statistics Regulation 91/2003 on rail transport statistics.
The basic legal act was amended by Commission Regulation 1192/2003 on rail transport statistics.
Further Eurostat information
- Strong recovery in rail freight transport performance in the first nine months of 2010 - Statistics in focus 10/2012
- The fall in rail freight transport performance slowed down towards the end of 2009 - Statistics in focus 11/2011
- Goods transport by rail declining by the end of 2008 - Statistics in focus 19/2010
- Railway passenger transport decreased slightly at the beginning of 2009 - Statistics in focus 15/2010
- Rail transport accidents decreasing in 2007 - Statistics in focus 52/2009
- Transport, see:
- Railway transport (t_rail)
- Rail transport of passengers (ttr00015)
- Transport, see:
- Railway transport (rail)
- Railway transport measurement - passengers (rail_pa)
- Railway transport - accidents (rail_ac)
Methodology / Metadata
- Railway transport - accidents (ESMS metadata file - rail_ac_esms)
- Illustrated glossary for transport statistics - 4th edition
- Regulation 91/2003 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 16 December 2002 on rail transport statistics
- Regulation 1192/2003 of 3 July 2003 amending Regulation 91/2003 on rail transport statistics