The energy cost leads freight rail to negative returns 29/11/22

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The energy cost leads freight rail to negative returns

Revenues grew at a lower rate than costs in 2021, a trend that may worsen this year due to the rise in energy
November 29, 2022

The costs of transporting goods by rail in 2021 have been estimated at 289.66 million euros, 21% above those registered in 2020 and 6.5% higher than those of 2019, the year before the pandemic, according to the Annual Report of the Railway Sector of the National Commission of Markets and Competition (CNMC). The agency has indicated that this increase "has been driven by a growth in traction energy costs of 81.6% in 2021 compared to the previous year." As corroborated by the CNMC, "the increase in energy prices during the second half of 2021, added to the increase in activity, has caused this unprecedented rise", which has led rail freight transport in Spain to experience profitability negative.

In this sense, the Association of Private Railway Companies (AEFP) has insisted in recent months on the position "of difficulty we have", they have demanded that the aid be increased and has regretted that "the extension of the measures has not been approved compensation to the railway companies for the extra cost of the traction energy of the trains that were in force in the second quarter of the year“. These costs endanger the demanded transfer of goods from road to rail as they pursue the sustainability objectives set by the European Union. Likewise, the AEFP has once again claimed the consideration of the electro-intensive sector for the railway sector in a context like the current one, in which energy prices have still been higher than those of the second half of 2021.


Tipo de Coste Valor (euros) Variación Anual % sobre el total de costes
Personal de Conducción 64.354.871 14,7 % 22,2 %
Cánones 7.359.609 -0,5 % 2,5 %
Servicios básicos, complementarios y auxiliares 41.786.089 11,5 % 14,4 %
Material Rodante 104.828.248 6,9 % 36,2 %
Energía 70.021.302 81,6 % 24,2 %
Resto de costes 1.313.089 -29 % 0,5 %
Total 289.663.207 21 %

Fuente: CNMC con datos de las empresas ferroviarias de mercancías

For its part, total revenue from the rail freight business in Spain reached 274.38 million euros in 2021, 12.9% above those achieved in 2020, but "still 5% below the 2019 levels”, has reported the CNMC. By company, the organization has highlighted, "Renfe Mercancías presents the highest share of income in the sector, between 55% and 65% of the total". For their part, "Captrain, Continental and Transfesa each account for between 5% and 15% of the total revenue of the sector," he added.

Regarding activity, the Competition report indicates that the ten "freight operators that have remained active providing services on the General Interest Railway Network in 2021 have transported 14.3% more merchandise than the previous year, and have reached 25.5 million net tons”. In terms of net ton-kilometres, they have stood at 10,432 million, 11.4% more than in 2020. In both cases, the CNMC report has indicated, "the value reached supposes having recovered the levels prior to the pandemic”. According to the Competition analysis, the greatest activity has been registered in the connections between Madrid and Valencia, Seville, Castilla León and the Basque Country, around Zaragoza and in the connections with France through Hendaye and Cerbere.

Competition highlights that since 2011 Renfe Mercancías has lost 28 percentage points of market share

By companies, the evolution has been uneven, the CNMC has recognized. In this sense, the organization maintains that, since 2011, "Renfe Mercancías has lost 28 percentage points of market share, up to 56.6% in net ton-kilometres". On the other hand, “its main competitors”, he added, “are Captrain, with 1,618.6 million net tonne kilometers, +6.7% over 2020, Continental (1,288 million net tonne kilometer +8.3% compared to 2020 ) and Transfesa (756 million net tonne kilometers, +1.5% compared to 2020)”.

The activity continues to be eminently national, the CNMC has pointed out, "and the intermodal wagon continues to increase in importance and represented 58.4% of net ton-kilometres in 2021, an increase of more than 5 percentage points compared to 2019". In intermodal wagons, Renfe Mercancías' market share is 46% and that of its main competitor, Continental, is 21%. The report confirms that, in a full wagon, Renfe Mercancías reaches a quota of 71% which, added to that of Captrain, reaches 94%.

The activity continues to be eminently national and with an increasing share of the intermodal wagon

The main products transported by full wagon are, in net tons transported, steel products, followed by bulk and chemical products. In net ton-kilometres, Competition has pointed out, "steelworks represent 55.5% of the total, while the importance of bulk decreases to 9.5%, demonstrating that the former travel further than the latter" . The first route in net ton-kilometres is Asturias-Valencia, with only two competitors, followed by Barcelona-Zaragoza and Madrid-Valencia, which are those operated by more companies, specifically six companies.