Passenger transport

Although some studies have suggested a saturation of passenger travel by car in some developed countries, the demand for passenger mobility continues to increase worldwide. There is a need for good and comprehensive data on passenger mobility in order to develop sustainable passenger mobility systems. Comparability of transport data between countries is not always possible worldwide due to the lack of harmonised definitions and methods. The Glossary for Transport Statistics (4th edition) provides common definitions to all member states of the European Union, the International Transport Forum and the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe.


Passenger transport data refer to the total movement of passengers using rail or road (passenger cars, buses or coaches) transport modes. Data are expressed in passenger-kilometres which represents the transport of one passenger over one kilometre. The distance to be taken into consideration is the distance actually run.


Although there are clear definitions for all the terms used in transport statistics, countries might have different methodologies to calculate passenger-kilometres. Methods could be based on traffic or mobility surveys, use very different sampling methods and estimating techniques which could affect the comparability of their statistics.

If passenger transport by rail or by regular buses and coaches can be estimated fairly easily, passengers transport by passenger car or by un-schedule coaches are much more difficult to track down. Some countries do not report passenger car transport at all, others carry out different types of surveys to estimate passenger travel on their territory. There is no common methodology for this and since no method provides a complete vision of passenger movements, data are not always comparable between countries.

The aggregate “EU28” does not include Cyprus, and for OECD neither Chile nor Israel are included.

In case of missing data for a country, estimates are based generally on the growth rates of the relevant region. These estimates are used solely to calculate aggregated trends in graphic representations and are not shown at the individual country level.


The economic crisis had a relatively small impact on rail passenger transport. If rail passenger-kilometres fell in 2009 in the OECD and the EU, volumes have recovered since then and in 2014 they are above pre-crisis levels by 3.9% and 6.3% respectively. However there are marked differences between countries. Indeed, some European countries showed a decrease in their rail passenger traffic in 2014, notably in the Netherlands (minus 8.4%), Slovenia (minus 8.3%) and Poland (minus 4.7%). A few countries resisted the otherwise downward trend; Ireland (8.0%), Portugal (5.6%), the United Kingdom (4.4%) and the Czech Republic (2.6%). Outside Europe, rail passenger-kilometres for Russia dropped by 6.1% in 2014 when compared to the previous year. Rail passenger-kilometres continues to show strong growth in China (8.0%) and India (6.9%) which account for nearly 70% of the estimated global rail passenger transport.

However, there continue to be marked differences in the EU. In France and Germany, passenger-kilometres have remained consistently above their pre-crisis levels. Passenger transport by rail in the United Kingdom has experienced continuous growth in volumes whereas passenger traffic in Italy, which had deteriorated since the economic crisis, shows an increase in trend since 2013, but still remains below pre-crisis levels.

Data on passenger-kilometres travelled in passenger cars are less detailed and less up to date in many countries. Within the EU, the decline was on average 0.5% in the 15 countries where data are available for 2014. In the United States, passenger travel by car fell 0.6% in 2013 when compared to 2012.


Further information

Analytical publications

Statistical publications

Methodological publications


Table. Inland passenger transport

Inland passenger transport
Average annual growth rate in percentage, 2004-14 or latest available period