Rail Freight Market Size & Share Analysis - Growth Trends & Forecasts (2023 - 2028)

The Report Covers Global Rail Freight Transportation Market Companies & Outlook and it is Segmented by Cargo Type (Containerized (Intermodal), Non-containerized, and Liquid Bulk), Destination (Domestic and International), Service Type (Transportation and Services Allied to Transportation), and Geography (North America, Europe, Asia-Pacific, and Rest of the World). The report offers the market size and forecasts in volume (thousand metric ton) and value (USD billion) for all the above segments.

Rail Freight Transportation Market Size

Rail Freight Transport Market Summary
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Study Period 2019 - 2028
Base Year For Estimation 2022
CAGR 2.00 %
Fastest Growing Market Asia Pacific
Largest Market Asia Pacific
Market Concentration Low

Major Players

Rail Freight Transport Market Major Players

*Disclaimer: Major Players sorted in no particular order


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Rail Freight Transportation Market Analysis

The rail freight transport market was valued at USD 247.39 billion in 2020, and it is expected to register a CAGR of about 2% during the forecast period, 2021-2026.

COVID-19 had a mixed impact on the rail freight market as regions like North and South America saw a decline in the rail freight market while Asia and Europe saw a rise in the rail freight traffic. In the long term, the regional share of rail freight is expected to see a prominent increase. Along with this, there is expected to be higher investment, further infrastructure development, and technology implementation to digitize rail freight.

North America leads the rail freight market, and Asia-Pacific is expected to overtake North America during the forecast period. Moreover, the rise in global trade and various trade agreements are boosting the global trade flows. The non-containerized cargo and liquid bulk segments dominate among the type of cargo transported by rail, while the growth of intermodal transport is boosting the transport of containerized cargo. Intermodal cargo is estimated to witness high growth over the forecast period. Similarly, with the rise in international trade and the countries recognizing the benefits of rail freight transport, cross-border rail freight transport is gaining huge momentum across different parts of the world. In some regions of Central Asia, Eastern Europe, South Asia, Southeast Asia, and Sub-Saharan Africa, characterized by groupings of many small countries, rail freight can increase economic integration by providing access to international and regional markets and connecting landlocked countries.

Rail Freight Transportation Market Trends

This section covers the major market trends shaping the Rail Freight Transport Market according to our research experts:

Low Cost of Transportation and Modal Shift Drive the Market

Rail freight companies continue to invest and reduce costs for customers. For instance, they have increased the payloads they can carry, with tonnage per train up by 80% in the last decade. When shipping by rail, the lower interest costs for the tied-up capital partly cover the higher transportation costs, making rail freight a very cost-efficient shipping alternative.

If a company ships 750 containers per year, with an average cargo value of EUR 250 000 per container and a financial cost of 5% PA, the daily interest cost is EUR 37.52 per container. Shipping goods door-to-door from China to Europe by rail typically takes about 25 days, compared to the sea, which typically takes about 42 days. This means a saving in interest cost of EUR 708 per container or EUR 531,165 per year for all 750 containers. This is money that can be used to cover extra costs and create a more agile supply chain, which can also have an additional positive impact on cost parameters and capital binding.

Railway transportation costs are lower. The cost of railway transportation is only one-tenth of the cost of automobile transportation; transportation fuel consumption is about one-twentieth of automobile transportation.

The COVID-19 crisis has resulted in the shortage of truck drivers and restrictions on sea and air transport in many countries and regions. As a result, the cost of transportation through truck, sea, or air has sharply risen as compared to rail freight costs. This has made the shift to rail fright a supply chain advantage.

Global Rail Freight Market: in USD billion, 2015-2020

Asia-Pacific Leads the Rail Freight Transport Market

As per industry sources, the Asia-Pacific region leads the current market studied, and it is also expected to grow significantly above Europe and North America. China is the largest market, followed by India. India's rail network is the world's third-largest.

Southeast Asia is the major driver for rail freight movement across the region, which is a result of a significant improvement in the business climate in most ASEAN countries over the last decade. The China-Laos railway, the launch of Laos' first satellite, hydropower developments, and other projects funded by China have helped promote connectivity between the two nations. Agriculture is seen as an important sector to bolster Lao exports to China, especially bananas, rubber, fertilizer, cassava, and corn. Vietnam, the Philippines, and Indonesia are among the fastest-growing countries in the region.

India's rail network is the world's third-largest rail network, with approximately 13,000 passenger trains and 9000 freight trains operating daily. Freight traffic of the Indian Railways increased to 1,221.39 million metric ton in FY19. As of January 2020, freight traffic in FY20 (up to January 2020) stood at 999.51 million metric ton. Growing industrialization across the entire country had further increased freight traffic over the last decade. Freight traffic is also set to increase significantly due to the rising investments and increased participation by the private sector. The Indian government is also providing a huge impetus to the PPP model in the industry with the redevelopment of stations, the building of private freight terminals, and private container train operations. It has also allowed 100% FDI in the railway sector.

Rail Freight Transport Market - Growth by Region (2021-2026)

Rail Freight Transportation Industry Overview

The rail freight transport market is moderately consolidated in nature, with a mix of global and local players. According to industry sources, the rail industry has been facing huge competition from its similar service providers, road and air transporters, since the last decade. Many countries are heavily investing in railroad infrastructural developments, and investments are especially huge in the Americas and Europe. International companies hold a large market share by acquiring or joining hands with local companies in many regions. At the country level, most of the markets seem to be concentrated with the presence of one or two major players. Additionally, in some countries, state-run companies own a major share of the market. During the COVID-19 pandemic, rail freight has been playing a key role by connecting European economies and keeping freight moving.

Rail Freight Transportation Market Leaders

  1. Union Pacific Railroad

  2. Canadian National Railway

  3. DHL

  4. DB Cargo

  5. Russian Railways (RZhD)

*Disclaimer: Major Players sorted in no particular order

Rail Freight Transport Market Concentration

Rail Freight Transportation Market News

In May 2020, Norfolk Southern Railway achieved a breakthrough in track inspection technology that enhances railroad safety and operating efficiencies. Combining ingenuity and innovation, it is the first North American freight railroad to develop and deploy an autonomous track geometry measurement system that is mounted on a locomotive.

In February 2021, the SmartCargo project was officially launched at the OBB headquarters. Rail Cargo Group's (RCG) board authorities presented the technology. Around 13,700 RCG wagons are each fitted with a SmartCargo device, which provides comprehensive information throughout the entire freight transport process.

Rail Freight Transportation Market Report - Table of Contents


    1. 1.1 Study Assumptions and Market Definition

    2. 1.2 Scope of the Study




    1. 4.1 Current Market Scenario

    2. 4.2 Technological Trends

    3. 4.3 Government Regulations and Initiatives

    4. 4.4 Insights into Transport Corridors in Key Regions

    5. 4.5 Spotlight on the Effects of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)

    6. 4.6 Review and Commentary on the Freight Transportation Costs by Rail

    7. 4.7 Elaboration on Key Trade Agreements Related to Rail

    8. 4.8 Impact of COVID-19 on the Market (Short-term and Long-term Impact on the Market and the Economy)

    9. 4.9 Insights into Key End Users of the Rail Freight Sector


    1. 5.1 Market Drivers

    2. 5.2 Market Restrictions

    3. 5.3 Market Opportunities

    4. 5.4 Industry Attractiveness - Porter's Five Forces Analysis

  6. 6. MARKET SEGMENTATION (Market Size by Value and Volume)

    1. 6.1 By Type of Cargo

      1. 6.1.1 Containerized (Includes Intermodal)

      2. 6.1.2 Non-containerized

      3. 6.1.3 Liquid Bulk

    2. 6.2 By Destination

      1. 6.2.1 Domestic

      2. 6.2.2 International

    3. 6.3 By Service Type

      1. 6.3.1 Transportation

      2. 6.3.2 Services Allied to Transportation (Maintenance of Railcars and Rail Tracks, Switching of Cargo, and Storage)

    4. 6.4 By Geography

      1. 6.4.1 North America

        1. United States

        2. Canada

        3. Mexico

      2. 6.4.2 Europe

        1. United Kingdom

        2. France

        3. Germany

        4. Switzerland

        5. Netherlands

        6. Russia

        7. Ukraine

        8. Kazakhstan

        9. Turkey

        10. Rest of Europe

      3. 6.4.3 Asia-Pacific

        1. India

        2. China

        3. Australia

        4. Japan

        5. Southeast Asia

        6. Rest of Asia-Pacific

      4. 6.4.4 Rest of the World

        1. Brazil

        2. South Africa

        3. Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)

        4. Other Countries


    1. 7.1 Overview (Market Concentration and Major Players)

    2. 7.2 Company Profiles

      1. 7.2.1 Union Pacific Railroad

      2. 7.2.2 Canadian National Railway

      3. 7.2.3 CSX Transportation

      4. 7.2.4 Norfolk Southern Railway

      5. 7.2.5 BNSF Railway

      6. 7.2.6 Swiss Federal Railways

      7. 7.2.7 DHL

      8. 7.2.8 DB Cargo

      9. 7.2.9 United Parcel Service (UPS)

      10. 7.2.10 Canadian Pacific Railway

      11. 7.2.11 Russian Railways (RZD)

      12. 7.2.12 Geneese & Wyoming Inc.

      13. 7.2.13 SNCF

      14. 7.2.14 Indian Railways

      15. 7.2.15 Japan Freight Railway Company (JR Freight)*

    3. *List Not Exhaustive
    4. 7.3 Other Players in the Market

      1. 7.3.1 Pacific National, SCT Logistics, Qube Holdings Ltd, Hector Rail, Kerry Logistics, Colas Rail, Network Rail, Ceva Logistics, DSV, P&O Ferrymasters, Kuehne + Nagel, Harsco Rail, Railtech Infraventure Pvt. Ltd, NARSTCO, Rail Maintenance Services, Patriot Rail Company LLC, WSP, Amalgamated Construction (AMCO) Ltd, Keewatin Railway Company, and A & B Rail

  8. 8. Future of the Market

  9. 9. APPENDIX

    1. 9.1 Insights into Key Performance Indicators (GDP Distribution, Population, Unemployment, etc.) for Key Countries

    2. 9.2 Insights into Capital Flows

    3. 9.3 Economic Statistics -Transport and Storage Sectors' Contribution to Economies of Key Countries

    4. 9.4 External Trade Statistics - Insights into Key Products Imported and Exported by Rail - Key Countries

**Subject to Availability

Rail Freight Transportation Industry Segmentation

Rail freight transport is the usage of railroads and trains to transport cargo on land. It can be used for transporting various kinds of goods or some of the way between the shipper and the intended destination. The report includes a complete background analysis of the rail freight transport market, which includes an assessment of the sector and contribution of the sector in the economy, market overview, market size estimation for key segments, key countries and emerging trends in the market segments, market dynamics, and key freight statistics. The report also covers a detailed analysis of the impact of COVID-19 on the market. The market is segmented by cargo type (containerized (intermodal), non-containerized, and liquid bulk), destination (domestic and international), service type (transportation and services allied to transportation), and geography (North America, Europe, Asia-Pacific, and Rest of the World). The report offers the market size and forecasts in volume (thousand metric ton) and value (USD billion) for all the above segments.

By Type of Cargo
Containerized (Includes Intermodal)
Liquid Bulk
By Destination
By Service Type
Services Allied to Transportation (Maintenance of Railcars and Rail Tracks, Switching of Cargo, and Storage)
By Geography
North America
United States
United Kingdom
Rest of Europe
Southeast Asia
Rest of Asia-Pacific
Rest of the World
South Africa
Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)
Other Countries

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Rail Freight Transportation Market Research FAQs

The Rail Freight Transport Market is projected to register a CAGR of 2% during the forecast period (2023-2028).

Union Pacific Railroad, Canadian National Railway, DHL, DB Cargo and Russian Railways (RZhD) are the major companies operating in the Rail Freight Transport Market.

Asia Pacific is estimated to grow at the highest CAGR over the forecast period (2023-2028).

In 2023, the Asia Pacific accounts for the largest market share in the Rail Freight Transport Market.

Rail Freight Industry Report

Statistics for the 2023 Rail Freight market share, size and revenue growth rate, created by Mordor Intelligence™ Industry Reports. Rail Freight analysis includes a market forecast outlook to 2028 and historical overview. Get a sample of this industry analysis as a free report PDF download.

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