Riding the rails: Which country travels the most by train in Europe?

Rail travel is helping the EU to reach climate and energy-saving targets – but which country has the most railways and who takes the train most often?

Increasing the use of public transport and minimising car dependency are two significant ways to help Europe reach ambition climate and energy-saving targets. At the heart of achieving both is the continent’s railways.


Rail passenger transport services and usage rates vary widely across Europe. Switzerland, Austria, France and Sweden have the highest figures for railway use, according to different metrics.

Who travels the most by train in Europe? Which countries have the highest share of train use when it comes to passenger transport? Which countries have the highest railway line density?

There are different metrics for measuring the prevalence of rail passenger transport. One of them is passenger-kilometres data which, is the average distance travelled on railways (national and international travel) per inhabitant.

The total passenger transport is equal to the sum of national and international passenger transport. The nationality of the passenger is not taken into consideration. Instead, the location of the travel is considered in datasets of passenger-kilometres per inhabitant and number of journeys per inhabitant.

For international journeys, the passenger-kilometres data only includes the distance travelled on national networks, or, in other words, the part of the journey that occurs within a particular national territory, not the distance of the whole journey.

As there is a remarkable difference between pre-COVID-19 travel and the pandemic period, it is helpful to consider both 2019 and 2021 figures. The comparisons here are mostly based on 2019 data.

Rail transport: Passenger-kilometres per inhabitant

In 2019, passenger-kilometres per inhabitant in national and international journeys ranged from 117 km in Greece to 2,378 km in Switzerland. The EU average was 927 km. In 2021, these countries did not change, but the numbers did. It was 61 km in Greece and 1,536 in Switzerland, while the EU average fell to 583 km.

In 2019, Austria (1,440 km) had the highest number of passenger-kilometres in the EU, followed by France (1,437 km), Sweden (1,429 km), Germany (1,208 km) and the UK (1,078 km).

Denmark (1,063 km), Czechia (1,019 km) and Italy (939 km) were other countries with numbers higher than the EU average.

The Balkan countries generally had lower numbers of passenger-kilometres per inhabitant.

Malta and Cyprus do not have railways.


Factors in international travel

International travel reflects the importance of international commuters within the workforce, the relative proximity of capitals or other cities to international borders, access to high-speed network rail links and positions along major international transport corridors according to Eurostat.

In 2021, Luxembourg had by far the longest average distance for international rail travellers, at 136 kilometres per inhabitant, followed by Switzerland (65.2 km).

Czechia (57.5 km), France (48.6 km), Germany (43.7 km), Denmark (36.8 km) and Austria (26 km) had higher averages of passenger-kilometres per inhabitant in…

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