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Travel is 60 times safer by rail than car

Press release 20.12.2010

Travel is 60 times safer by rail than car

Passenger fatalities: ‘Vision Zero’ is already a reality for the railways

mother and child in a train

In many European countries there are no rail passenger fatalities


Berlin. Travelling by train in Germany is extremely safe. According to Pro-Rail Alliance calculations for the years 2004 to 2009, the average annual risk of being killed was 60 times greater for car occupants than rail travellers. For injuries, the difference was even more pronounced: per billion passenger-kilometres, the probability of being injured when travelling was 100 times greater for every journey by car compared with a train journey. There is also a significant difference between trains and coaches. The risk of fatality for coach passengers is four times higher compared with trains, and the risk of injury is 28 times greater. "The railways are the safest mode of transport by a large margin," said Dirk Flege, managing director of the Pro-Rail Alliance, at a joint press conference with the Auto-Club Verkehr (ACV) in Berlin on Monday.

In an EU wide comparison on transport safety, Germany was ranked towards the top of the list with good results for the number of fatalities in car and rail accidents. The EU average is 3.51 fatalities per billion passenger-kilometres on the roads, with Germany averaging 2.78 deaths. For the railways, the EU average is 0.16 fatalities. Germany's average of 0.01 deaths was only just behind the countries without any fatalities: Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, The Netherlands, Sweden, Slovenia and the UK. "The 'Vision Zero' being targeted for road transport is already a reality for the railways," said Flege. This is a fact that the mass media is not yet aware of. In the last year there was even the impression that rail travel was life-threatening. "The very opposite is true. When it comes to safety, the railways have been building their lead over cars and coaches for many years now."

Flege demanded a 'transparency initiative' from the federal government in order to make plain the horrendous costs that result from accidents. These hidden costs currently have to be covered by health insurance contributions. "Our fear is that road transport is being subsidised by society to the tune of over 10 billion euros. Transparency is the least that can be expected."

Horst Metzler, general secretary of the ACV warned against being too complacent about road fatalities simply because numbers have sinking for several years. "Over 4,000 people killed on the roads in Germany and around 39,000 deaths in Europe is no cause for celebration," said Metzler. He pointed out that the German Transport Safety Council reckons that around 10,000 people suffer life-threatening injuries annually in Germany. "The statistics should be extended to include serious injuries to prevent people being reassured for the wrong reasons," said Metzler.

The ACV general secretary also spoke out against the planned test trials of longer and heavier vehicles (LHVs),scheduled for early 2011. "Even now, a heavy goods vehicle is involved in one in five fatal accidents. Longer trucks will increase the distance needed for overtaking by up to 44 metres. That will mean decisive seconds that could be lacking in an emergency situation." The ACV reckons that the introduction of LHVs to Germany's roads would endanger the positive trend on the number of fatalities.


Number of travellers killed per billion-kilometres in 2008 in Europe
The train is clearly a safer alternative to cars (Bahn = train, PKW = car)


Source: Allianz pro Schiene (Pro-Rail Alliance). Based on EU Commission figures: Energy and Transport in Figures 2010. Car data for Italy, The Netherlands and UK from 2007. Current car data for Bulgaria, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Portugal and Slovakia were not available at the time of publication.


Additional information
(in German)


Dr. Barbara Mauersberg
Press Officer

phone: +49 30 2462599 20
mobil: +49 162 211 53 64