Goods transport by rail


In 2020, transport performance of 9.8 billion net tonne-kilometres was generated in goods transport on the Swiss railway network. This figure was 1% lower than that of 2000 and 11% lower compared to 2008, before the decline caused by the financial and economic crisis.

In 2020 the railway’s share in the total transport performance by road and rail was 37%. Following a decline in its importance in the 1980s and 1990s, rail has been able to stabilise its market share in recent years. Amongst other factors this was due to the promotion of goods transport by rail through the reform of the railways, the modernisation of infrastructure as well as subsidies and investment aid. The introduction of the performance-related heavy vehicle charge (the HVC) for lorries and road tractors also helped to stabilise the share of rail transport.

Goods transport by rail, 2020
Transport performance 9.8 billion net tonne-km
Change from 2000 –1%
Quantity of goods carried 65.0 million tonnes
Change from 2000 +4%
Kilometre performance 26.7 million train-km
Change from 2000 –15%
Source: FSO – Public transport statistics (TP)

Domestic and international transport

While road vehicles mainly carry out small-scale transport within Switzerland, the railways are predominantly used for transit trips and thus for transport over longer distances. In 2020, 63% of transport performance for goods by rail was accounted for by transit trips. Domestic transport accounted for 24%. Since 2008 it has declined in importance both in terms of percentage (–5 percentage points) and in absolute terms (–0.8 bn tonne-kilometres). In 2020 imports and exports accounted for around a tenth of transport performance in rail freight.

With regard to the countries concerned by cross-border rail freight, Germany leads as both export and import country. Belgium and Italy are two further important countries, but they come in a considerable distance behind Germany, in particular as far as imports are concerned. In terms of quantities exported, the differences to Germany are smaller.

Commodities transported

Comparatively large amounts of transport performance in rail freight are accounted for by the commodity groups “Metal and metal products” as well as by “Petroleum products”. In much of transport performance, however, the commodity cannot be statistically identified – because the goods are carried in containers, swap bodies or along with the transporting motor vehicles. Transport of this type is known as "combined transport".

Current quarterly data

The key figures for goods transport by rail are published every quarter.  

Goods transport by rail in the last four available quarters (in brackets: Change compared to previous year)
  3rd quarter 2020 4th quarter 2020 1st quarter 2021 p 2nd quarter 2021 p
Tonnes carried (millions) 14.1
Tonnes-km (millions) 2 586.2
2 672.5
2 805.1
2 940.0
p provisional data (situation on: September 15, 2021)

Note: analogous to Ordinance (EU) No 2018/643 only enterprises with an annual transport performance of at least 500 million tonne-km.
Source: FSO – Public transport statistics (TP)

Further information



Statistical sources and concepts


Federal Statistical Office Section Mobility
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