Railway safety statistics

From Statistics Explained

Data from December 2013. 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 2012, the decline in number of accidents compared to 2011 could be established at 19.9 %, and the number of victims (killed or injured persons) has also decreased over the same period (-4.4 %).

Figure 1: Number of persons killed in railway accidents, 2011-2012
Source: Eurostat (rail_ac_catvict)

Main statistical findings

Table 1: Number of persons killed and injured by type of accident and category of persons in EU-28, 2012
Source: Eurostat (rail_ac_catvict)
Table 2: Rail traffic performance (detailed reporting) and number of significant accidents in EU-28, 2012
Source: Eurostat (rail_ac_catnmbr) (rail_ac_catvict) (rail_go_quartal) (rail_pa_quartal)
Table 3: Fatalities by category of persons, 2012
Source: Eurostat (rail_ac_catvict)
Table 4: Fatalities by type of accident, 2012
Source: Eurostat (rail_ac_catvict)
Figure 2: Train passengers killed per billion passenger-km, 2011-2012
Source: Eurostat (rail_ac_catvict) (rail_pa_total) (rail_pa_quartal)

Although safety statistics for rail transport are not available for Luxembourg for 2012, this article comprises EU-28 totals for this reference year excluding this country (see methodological section). Based on historical data, it can be assumed that this has a very limited impact on the trends observed at Union level.

In 2012, there were 2 261 persons killed or seriously injured in railway accidents in the EU-28, around 4.4 % less than in 2011. 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 2 178 significant train accidents were registered in the EU-28 in 2012, representing a decrease of 19.9 % compared to 2011: 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-28

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 45 % of all rail victims registered in the EU-28 in 2012, 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 Ireland (3.5 persons killed or injured per accident) is not significant due to the very low number of accidents (2). The rate observed in the Netherlands (2.0) is clearly above the EU-28 average (1.0) which remained relatively stable compared to 2011. For all EFTA countries and Candidate countries this ratio is below the EU average with the exception of Turkey (1.1).

When analysing the relation between passenger transport performance and rail safety using the number of passengers killed per passenger-kilometre, four countries record ratios of more than four times the EU-28 average (0.09 passengers killed per billion passenger-kilometres). This group of Member States is made up of Poland (0.82), Bulgaria (0.53) Slovakia (0.41) and Hungary (0.38). Out of the EFTA and Candidate countries, Turkey registers the highest ratio, with 0.65 passengers killed per billion passenger-kilometres in 2012.

Liechtenstein is the only country for which no victim (killed or injured persons) was reported in 2012.

Two types of accident caused more than 98 % of fatalities

For all participating countries except Ireland, the most common types of accident with victims are accidents caused by rolling stock in motion and those happening at level-crossings. In 2012, these two categories represented 90.3 % of the total amount of victims and 95.3 % of the fatalities.

Only a minority (17.9 %) of rail accident victims in the EU-28 were actually passengers travelling on trains or railway employees. The majority, the remaining 82.1 %, 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 victims caused by this type of accident were registered among passengers in 2012) as well as for collisions (87 % of the victims among passengers and employees).

At country level, 274 fatalities were registered in Poland, 153 in Germany and 126 in Romania. For these countries, the majority of fatalities were linked to accidents caused by ‘rolling stock in motion’ (72 % for Poland, 67 % for Romania and 56 % for Germany).

Within the European Union, the highest share of fatalities due to collisions in the total number of fatalities was recorded in Greece (24 %), followed by Spain (10 %).

At EU-28 level, only 1 person lost life in 2012 in an accident due to derailments (in Germany). 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.

Poland registered the highest ratio in 2012 (0.82 passengers killed per billion passenger-kilometres) ahead of Bulgaria (0.53): all the other reporting countries recorded a ratio under 0.50 in 2012, with the sole exception of Turkey (0.65). For a large majority of countries, this indicator improved or remained constant between 2011 and 2012.

Data sources and availability

Data availability

The figures presented in this publication have been extracted from the Eurostat rail transport database on 02/12/2013. 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)

  • CY: No railway transport
  • LU: 2012 data on rail safety are not available.
  • MT: No railway transport


For data availability reasons, the EU-28 aggregates related to rail safety statistics for 2012 exclude Luxembourg.

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.


Definitions presented here are those of the Regulation n°1192/2003 of 3 July 2003 amending Regulation No 91/2003 of the European Parliament and of the Council on rail transport statistics.

  • 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.

  • Others

As a category of victim, "others" includes, for example, level crossing users and trespassers.


 : not available
- not applicable
0 actual zero or very negligible transport
c confidential data


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.

See also

Further Eurostat information


Main tables

Railway transport (t_rail)
Rail transport of passengers (ttr00015)


Railway transport (rail)
Railway transport measurement - passengers (rail_pa)
Railway transport - accidents (rail_ac)

Dedicated section

Methodology / Metadata

Other information